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Exploring History

British Culture and Society 1700 to the Present – Essays in Honour of Professor Emma Harris

Edited By Lucyna Krawczyk-Żywko

This volume of essays in honour of Professor Emma Harris explores various branches of British history from 1700 to the present. The range of topics reflects the varied academic interests of the authors, who are friends, colleagues, and former students of Professor Harris. The essays take us on a journey through time, beginning with Queen Anne, eighteenth-century translations of literature, literary criticism, and ethnographical writings on witches. From there we proceed to Lord Byron, the outcast playwright, Victorian Englishness, modernist foreignness, the effect of World War I on language, and World War II on fashion. The collection also incorporates reflections on subcultural studies and on the fascination of the mystery of Jack the Ripper.
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Antiquaries at War: Witchcraft and Superstition in Early English Ethnographical Writings


Paweł Rutkowski

Antiquaries at War: Witchcraft and Superstition in Early English Ethnographical Writings

English antiquaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, driven by the contemporary renewed interest in historiography, strove to see the history of Britain through its extant material manifestations: archived medieval documents, inscriptions, accidently unearthed coins and pots, ruins, ancient barrows and circles of stones, etc. Although the antiquarian works, being basically detailed inventories of monuments of both national and local history, almost by definition focused on the tangible artefacts, the spacious category of antiquitates, from the very outset, contained also less material relics of the past such as proverbs, stories, traditions, popular beliefs and the like. At the turn of the eighteenth century interest in the latter was becoming more and more conspicuous, which was demonstrated, for instance, by the publication of John Aubrey’s Miscellanies (1696) or Henry Bourne’s Antiquitates Vulgares, or, the Antiquities of the common people (1725).

It was, however, in the latter half of the century that a more systematic research on the subject began. The breakthrough was John Brand’s Observations on popular antiquities of 1777 (Dorson 306–7, 310), which was an annotated re-edition of Bourne’s work that contained an appendix with articles on issues “omitted” by the original author. Brand’s work, immensely popular, helped trigger off a serious study of “popular antiquities” – old beliefs, customs and rituals still lingering among the people – that were now to be collected, described and commented upon by Brand’s followers, who...

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