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Hunting Satan in Scotland and the Atlantic World with Michelle D. Brock

The Prince of Darkness wrought havoc on the souls of seventeenth-century Christians living throughout the Atlantic world. Whether they called him Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, or by any other name, Lucifer tempted men and women to break their covenant with God in Heaven and do his dark bidding on Earth.

At a time of great religious upheaval, when the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe and across the ocean to England’s American colonies, fears of Satan’s malevolent influence and the search for signs of his deeds were particularly intense in Scotland.

A Reformation driven largely by the Scottish clergy and gentry inspired Scots to see the Devil’s works in their everyday lives, question their salvation, and steel themselves against the possibility of eternal damnation.

And just like in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s, Scots saw witches among them. Between the mid-1560s and early 1730s, Scots accused nearly 4,000 people of being in league with Satan. They executed many of the alleged conspirators.

On today’s show, Dr. Michelle D. Brock helps us understand why Satan held such powerful sway over Reformed Scotland, how Scottish witch hunting compared to the colonial New England experience, and perhaps the ultimate question: In dealing with the supernatural, how do we know what we know.

About Our Guest:

Michelle D. Brock, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of history at Washington & Lee University. She is the author of Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c.1560-1700, (Routledge, 2016). She is co-director, along with Chris R. Langley of Newman University of Mapping the Scottish Reformation, a digital prosopography of the Scottish clergy between 1560 and 1689.

About Our Host: 

Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.