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  1. Unbelievable news, stories, videos, and more.
  2. The Historical Significance of Matthew Hopkins: England's 'Witchfinder General'
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The seventeenth century marked a sharp rise in anxiety about witchcraft in the British Isles. The country acquired a witch obsessed King in the form of King James VI of Scotland and new legislation which made any act of witchcraft- benign or malicious- a punishable offense.

In the years that followed, fear of witches simmered beneath the surface as religious tensions and a growing suspicion of the old Catholic faith fed social division. This tension increased as the situation between parliament and the monarchy became increasingly strained, finally erupting in the English civil war in One person to profit from these chaotic times was an obscure country lawyer named Matthew Hopkins. Hopkins, an ardent Puritan, rose to fame when he became the self-appointed Witchfinder General of England.

And what was his eventual fate? Parish records indicate that Matthew Hopkins was born in Little Wenham in Suffolk sometime around James Hopkins died in , leaving the bulk of his estate to his wife Marie, to be divided amongst their six children when they reached the age of twenty-two. The family had deep Puritan leanings. However, although well educated, Matthew Hopkins did not go to University or enter the church.

The Historical Significance of Matthew Hopkins: England's 'Witchfinder General'

Instead, he disappears from the record. A true entrepreneur, Hopkins appears to have quickly turned his mission into a well-paid career, so much so that local taxes were even being levied in order to fund his obsession. And on to the work of those lady pickers; well, their job involved cutting the arm of the accused with a knife, needle or pin, and if she did not bleed, she was said to be a witch. However, with a very good living to be earned from unmasking witches, retractable or blunt blades were often adopted.

Engraving of needles used to prick suspected witches and so to determine their guilt. This unbelievably simple but effective test involved binding the arms and legs of the accused to a chair before throwing them into the village pond.


If they sank and drowned, they would be innocent and received into heaven; if they floated, they would be tried as a witch. Many strange events appear to have taken place during the turbulent days of the English Civil War , when the rule of law and order had all but broken down. Just a few decades later, the last execution for witchcraft in England took place in Exeter, Devon , when Alicia Molland was put to death in March It has long been propounded that Hopkins was himself accused of being a witch, subjected to his own test of being bound and thrown into water and hanged after he was found to float.

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In fact, Hopkins died after an illness, likely tuberculosis. Matthew Hopkins.

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