Enforcing Morality in Early Modern Europe

Monter, E. William
Date published: 
January 1987

The idealistic bourgeois society of Calvinist Geneva and the obscure ‘world of the witches’ , the two principal subjects of this volume, may seem to have little in common; the articles do, nevertheless, share common themes and approaches. From their differing perspectives, each group investigates the ideal of moral purity and the desire for social controls which acted so powerfully on European society in the 16th-17th centuries. In the case of Geneva, there emerges a picture of pristine Calvinism, its conformity ensured by institutionalised controls; with witchcraft, and the associated crimes of heresy and homosexuality, the controls become direct and brutal, motivated by fear rather than hope. The articles, too, share an emphasis on the role of women, and reveal the special importance of 16th-century Italy for the study of these subjects. Throughout, Professor Monter stresses the value of a quantitative approach to social history, while recognising that it may contribute more to identifying the questions of importance than to answering them.