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Thinking with Montaigne: evidence, scepticism and meaning in early modern demonology

Machielsen, Jan ORCID: 2011. Thinking with Montaigne: evidence, scepticism and meaning in early modern demonology. French History 25 (4) , pp. 427-452. 10.1093/fh/crr060

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In 1612 the Bordeaux witchcraft inquisitor Pierre de Lancre (1556–1631), himself linked by marriage to Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), revealed that the essayist and sceptic was related on his mother’s side to a leading authority on magic and superstition, the Flemish-Spanish Jesuit Martin Delrio (1551–1608). De Lancre confounded historians’ expectations by using the revelation to defend Montaigne against his cousin’s criticism. This article re-evaluates the relationships of De Lancre, Delrio and Montaigne in the light of recent scholarship, which casts demonology as a form of ‘resistance to scepticism’ that conceals deep anxiety about the existence of the supernatural. It explores De Lancre’s and Delrio’s very different attitudes towards Montaigne and towards evidence and scepticism. This, in turn, reveals the different underlying preoccupations of their witchcraft treatises. It hence argues that no monocausal explanation linking scepticism to witchcraft belief is plausible.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DC France
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0269-1191
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 10:50

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