Will Pooley is a historian of modern France. His research explores folklore, popular culture, supernatural beliefs, witchcraft, and the history of the body, and he has a special interest in creative historical practice.
His current research explores 1000 criminal cases from France 1790-1940 that deal with harmful magic. These include over 150 cases where suspected witches were murdered, as well as hundreds of prosecutions of magical practitioners, healers, fortune-tellers and cartomancers. He has published and forthcoming work on witchcraft as an urban phenomenon in Paris, on male witches, and on slander trials involving witchcraft.
His first book, which appeared in 2019, explores body cultures among the rural population of southwestern France. It draws on the ethnographic archive assembled by Félix Arnaudin (1844-1921) to ask how ordinary people thought about, discussed and used their bodies. Folktales, legends, and songs provide windows into popular cultures of the body from below. He also has published and forthcoming work on folklore and family history, folklore collecting, and creative approaches to historical research and presentation.