Rye Spirits: faith, faction and fairies in a 17th century English town
Paperback 234 x 156 mm
320 pp. + 8pp col. section 20 B&W illus.
Available through any bookseller
“This fascinating and important book …” —Robin Briggs, University of Oxford
“… a good story and a good history, well told” —Marion Gibson, The Seventeenth Century
“In its sheer breadth and depth and detail …
Gregory’s story has a European feel to it …” —Malcolm Gaskill, Continuity and Change
“This highly informative book …”—Brian P. Levack, Journal of British Studies
“Fascinating … skilfully composed to engage
non-specialist readers and draw them into
the detailed research on which it is based …
writing is clear and refreshingly informal.”—Ben Burt, anthropologist, British Museum
When the mayor of the godly but quarrelsome port of Rye in Sussex died suddenly in 1607, some people suspected witchcraft. These suspicions were still only loosely formulated, however, when the town clerk recorded a voluminous and inchoate dossier of evidence for the ensuing trial. This brings to life the concerns and even the speech of inhabitants—enabling the author to give a richly detailed account of life in early-modern Sussex. The women accused of witchcraft were far from the stereotype of popular legend.
Unravelling the story, however, was challenging—which may explain why it has not been published before. Only when the author delved into the pre-history of the case did a story begin to emerge. This witchcraft case—in which the mayor was both judge and prosecutor— was revealed to be one episode in a series of conflicts which periodically, over a couple of centuries, rent the town into competing factions.
The spirits of the title range from fairies playing pranks on the inhabitants of Rye, to angels announcing the impending apocalypse. They are also, perhaps, the ordinary people of Rye—independent spirits, many of whom have bit parts in this extraordinary story.
The List of Contents is displayed on the Sample Chapters page.