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About the Creator and Performer

Jennifer McNabb is a Professor of History and the head of the Department of History at the University of Northern Iowa. Professor McNabb has spoken and published widely on social relationships in early modern Europe, especially courtship and marriage. In addition to articles in journals such as the Sixteenth Century Journal and Journal of Women’s History, she has authored material for several textbooks on Western civilization and European history. Professor McNabb has served as president of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association and is a former chair of the program committee of the Midwest Conference on British Studies. In 2018, she was appointed as the chief reader of the Advanced Placement European History program, supervising high school and college faculty from across the country in scoring student work on the AP exam.

What listeners say about Witchcraft in the Western Tradition

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting, but not great

There are some facts in here that are interesting, but even at the short length of 5hrs and 11 mins, the narrative seems stretched and padded by repetition and a whole lot more setup than is necessary. Example is constantly saying "we'll talk about this later" and "in another chapter, we're going to look at" which would be fine in a *short* intro, but those phrases just keep coming up again and again late into the book, along with, "We've already talked about...". It's like the military template for any training presentation: 1. Tell them what you're going to tell them. 2. Tell them. 3. Tell them what you just told them. I find it frustrating enough in a mandatory brief at work; in a recreational pursuit, I find it almost intolerable. I believe that may have occurred because this was originally a course on The Great Courses, and so an indefinite amount of time may have passed between the listener listening to the different sections, but it doesn't translate well to an audiobook where one is listening at a pretty steady pace all the way through.

I reiterate that there is still a good amount of interesting detail and information I didn't previously know in the book, but I have too often found myself barking at the speakers, "JUST SAY IT ALREADY." I also find the narrator's constantly earnest, emphatic way of speaking a little irksome, though not enough to stop listening.

All in all, a three-star listen that increased my understanding of the topic but was not the best Audible experience I've ever had.

13 people found this helpful

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Awesome lectures

Professor McNabb really knows her stuff, and presents a balanced and nuanced overview of early modern witchcraft that captures the interest of the listener.

4 people found this helpful

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Full of Information Loved it!!

This author knows how to lecture, though it isn’t like learning, I found myself so entrapped with her presentation on so many forgotten years of important history in regards to witchcraft that I had my headphones on and sitting cross cross apple sauce like a kid sitting in the floor hoping this audible would never end! Thank you so much this, it is definitely a must read; IMO for everyone!

3 people found this helpful

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Feedback hum is intolerable

This was released in 2020, there is absolutely no excuse for background noise pollution. Makes it hard to actually focus on what she is saying when there is a variable electronic hum between every sentence and constantly in the background, almost like it’s being played off a cassette ribbon and you are hearing the hum of the player. Awful and absolutely deteriorates the content. Shameful for the great courses.

2 people found this helpful

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Insight into past culture with modern applications

This was a very illuminating lecture series. One thing that stood out is the psychological satisfaction people derive by assigning causes to unexplained events; one of the driving reasons for accusing others of witchcraft. Similar behavior and thinking persists today. At least initially, associating witches with devil worship or Satanic powers was not really the norm. Rather people just wanted to be able to assign blame for bad things happening to them. The horrific sexism levied against women, both generally speaking and even by the supposedly "educated" religious leaders/scholars becomes very salient, demonstrating that misogyny was well-engrained into the culture for millennia. In many cases, strong and out-spoken women were targeted. Using torture to force confessions was widely practiced, but eventually (taking hundreds of years) led to laws forbidding such practices. It seems like as witchcraft and sorcery became more associated with diabolic practices, the more religious thinking took over, leading to the torture and death of many innocent people, and the less anyone was willing to consider scientific and evidence-based approaches to understand the situation.

2 people found this helpful

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TOP SHELF!

Very comprehensive. Top shelf. Excellent knowledge of subject and great narration. An excellent historical compendium.

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It was some kind of evil spell…

…that made this one of most boring audiobooks I’ve ever heard. It is very hard to follow. I must have restarted it at least five times because I reallly wanted to focus and learn more about this subject. How can you choose such a provoking and interesting theme and create such tedious lectures is beyond my understanding. Kind of magical, really.

1 person found this helpful

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  • MC
  • 05-18-22

Interesting

Organized, well presented and enlightening!
I really enjoyed it and would recommend!
Thank You Very Much

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Not Suffer a Witch

Very interesting look into the past practices that led to witch hunts and the persecution of mainly women in the early ages of Christianity into the development of the New World explorers.

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Interesting!

I find religion fascinating, as well as the cruelty of mankind, and the extent that people will go to prove their point.. even when it has deadly consequences. You might find this short series of lectures surprising.. in hearing some of the facts of such a time in recorded history. I would definitely recommend if you have interests in such things!

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  • Helen
  • 12-03-21

Interesting but felt like it was for 16yr olds

Took so long to get to each point which was exhausting. Couldn't understand the lack of attention paid to the Reformation which makes me think this course is geared to an American audience that has no knowledge on the subject.

Continually mentions 'Europe' but only talks generalities in England and France, and touches on a few other countries singular cases. Extremely odd that no mention is made of the inquisition in Spain as perhaps that is why no appetite is there, too busy with other burnings maybe? Again no real clear connection to the Reformation is made bar a passing mention just to say it happened which is bizarre. It completely changed people's lives during this period.

Course felt extremely limited for someone very knowledgeable on the subject at hand which was very disappointing, I'm going to give the professor the benefit of the doubt however will give her another go in future.

If you want an overview and you don't know much about witchcraft in this period then this is for you, if you know even a bit, then don't bother you won't learn anything!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tommy B
  • 04-20-22

A brilliant overview

I really enjoyed this audiobook, it’s easy listening, it doesn’t discriminate against how educated you are, some comments on here are just blindly gatekeeping knowledge which should be available for all. This is thoughtful hprovoking to those who might be new to the subject, passionate and factual as far as I can research. I didn’t get bored like I can do with over saturated long worded books. Really love this audiobook!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-09-22

Enjoyable and educational

Really enjoyed these lectures the narrator was wonderful to listen to and very educational, will be listening to more of the Great Courses.

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  • ann virco
  • 02-20-22

Excellent overall synopsis

This is a really good overview of western witchcraft and excellent narration. The book has urged me to look into this fascinating subject more closely.
The layout of the book is logical and doesn't jump around or confuse the listener with its chronology, I found it very interesting and although is only an overview without going into great depth it will give the listener a good understanding of the subject if they have no previous knowledge.

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  • ms lowe
  • 02-12-22

not what I expected

this is an interesting overview into the how witchcraft is perceived and used to punish people.

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  • Cabbage
  • 12-03-21

Interesting but a little repetitive

I enjoyed the audiobook overall, but I did find it little repetitive at times.

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  • Dave A
  • 10-14-21

Thought provoking and balanced

This is very well constructed and researched, especially considering the (acknowledged) challenges presented by the abundance in some respects, the lack of it in others and the complexities inherent in modern interpretation of the available contemporary source material.

Any respectable discourse on what is, fundamentally, social history should attempt to understand why people in the past did what they did and how beliefs change and evolve over time. I believe this does so.

Some well made points about more recent parallels where intrinsic human nature seems to drive, extraordinary, behaviour.





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  • Sarah Robinson: Author of Yoga for Witches, Yin Magic & Kitchen Witch
  • 08-29-21

Excellent

Excellent - educational, enlightening and fascinating. The witch hunts don’t always make for easy listening but the history is important and interesting.

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  • Ben
  • 05-08-22

Not particularly insightful.

Covers a broad idea of persecution of witchcraft but doesn't dig too deeply into any details beyond a few quotes.
Worth a listen if you're curious about the topic, but doesn't stand out from other great courses audiobooks.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-26-22

great listen

was an interesting listen, I learnt a lot from this about stuff I had never thought of when it came to witchcraft. there was a section where Jennifer repeated a sentence, but that's just a minor