What are the political forces that contributed to the witchcraft suspicion in the early modern period of England?
The English Witch Craze of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries happened at a time of great political upheaval which certainly contributed to its development. First and foremost was the English Civil War (1642-1651) which not only contributed to the de-stabilization of law and order but also introduced the role of the 'Witch-Finder General.' This man, Matthew Hopkins, was a prolific hunter of witches during the civil war who accused 206 people of witchcraft and 'diabolical acts' between April and December of 1661 alone.
Another important political cause of the English witch craze were the Witchcraft Acts, passed in 1542, repealed five years later but reinstated in 1562. A further Act was passed in 1604 by King James I who showed a keen interest in witches and even published a book on the subject. These acts brought witchcraft to the forefront of public attention and placed them firmly on the national agenda which heightened the sense of anxiety towards witches and contributed to the craze in England.