Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584)

Discoverie of Witchcraft

The Discoverie of Witchcraft: Reginald Scot argued against witchcraft trials and outraged King James.

As witchcraft trials became increasingly common in England at the end of the sixteenth century, Reginald Scot opposed the trials and became one of the most radical skeptics regarding witchcraft at the time. In The Discoverie of Witchcraft, he called upon people to reconsider their views on witches and reassess the judicial evidence. Scot's objections to witchcraft trials were based on several points: that witchcraft accusations were usually directed against innocent impoverished women by their neighbors, that there was no biblical foundation for belief in modern witches, that existing laws were adequate to prosecute the components of the crime of witchcraft, and that philosophy and science disproved the deeds supposedly confessed by witches.

His treatise outraged King James VI of Scotland and prompted him to write his own book, the Daemonologie, in 1597. Scot became a common target for believers in the persecution of witches, and when James I succeeded to the throne of England in 1603, he ordered all copies of Scot's book to be burned. Only a few copies of the original printing survived this destruction.

Clements Library copy of The Discoverie of Witchcraft