The Supernatural in Early Modern England (HIH1553)

StaffDr Laura Sangha - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Through critical evaluation of the rich primary sources relating to the supernatural, the module aims to introduce students to the complex nature of Protestant religious cultures; to the diverse range of archival material available to the historian of early modern religion; and to the difficulties and advantages of deploying such primary material in the study of early modern religious mentalities. Documents to be discussed will include ecclesiastical records, sermons and treatises, ballads, pamphlets, almanacs, herbals, and plays.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to understand and assess attitudes towards the supernatural in early modern England.
  • 2. Ability to engage critically with a diverse range of historical sources relating to belief in the supernatural.
  • 3. Ability to understand the purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyze and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of early modern religious cultures more broadly.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Ability to identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. bias, reliability, etc., and to compare the validity of different types of source.
  • 5. Ability to answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Ability to present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Ability to work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Ability to write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

  1. Visible and Invisible Worlds: Early Modern Religious Cultures
  2. Time and Place: The Calendar and Landscape 
  3. Providence : Miracles, Wonders and Signs
  4. Popular Healing: White Witches 
  5. Demonological Witchcraft 
  6. Astrologers: Elite Magic 
  7. Angels: God’s Special Agents
  8. Fairies: The Airy People
  9. Ghosts: The Unquiet Dead
  10. The Supernatural and 'Science'
  11. Conclusions

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 Seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Marks and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries60 (15% per commentary)2000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500 word essay1500 word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

• Jonathan Barry, Maranne Hester and Gareth Roberts (eds), Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe: Studies in Culture and Belief (Cambridge, 1996)
• Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997)
• David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (London, 1989)
• Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London, 2007)
• Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year (Oxford, 1994)
• Michael MacDonald, Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety and Healing in 17th Century England (Cambridge, 1981)
• Peter Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002)
• Peter Marshall and Alexandra Walsham (eds), Angels in the Early Modern World (Cambridge, 2006)
• Jane Shaw, Miracles in Enlightenment England (London, 2006)
• Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (London, 1971)
• Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1999)
• Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety 1550-1640 (Cambridge, 1996)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Early English Books Online

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date