My research explores the role of practical or 'cunning' magic in medieval and early modern English society. Spanning the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries, I am interested in social responses to the supernatural.
I research how magic was practised and by whom, whether this changed over the period, and how magical practice was affected by perspectives on gender. I also explore the extent to which magic was tolerated at different social strata, from the employment of village cunning folk to magic's use at the English royal court.
Theological perspectives on magic in early modern England largely portray cunning folk – otherwise known as wise men and women, charmers, or good witches – as a social ‘other’, existing on the wrong side of moral and social acceptability. However, though officially deviant and thus liable to prosecution, cunning folk were also common, inhabiting every major town and many villages across the country. The practical function of cunning folk and their popularity among all social classes suggests a broad societal acceptance of cunning magic.