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Friesland :: History 229: The Age of the Witch Hunts


Friesland was a province in the Netherlands that did not execute a single witch through out the entirety of the trials. Correlating to Brian Levack’s arguments in “State Building and Witch Hunting,” the highly organized and centralized provincial court in Friesland prevented executions. The court system not only held a strong presence, but also seemed to be progressive compared to many other courts in the Netherlands. The courts “were staffed with academically trained jurists” who “disliked the violation of due process in witchcraft trials.” These jurists also forbade the use of torture unless there was significant, but not substantial evidence to implicate the accused – also referred to as “half proof.”

Through today’s lens, it may be assumed that because the jurists were highly educated, they simply did not believe in witchcraft. This, however, is untrue. de Waardt states, “the Court of Friesland adhered to these procedural rules closely, not because the justices did not believe that witchcraft was possible, but because they realized that it was impossible to produce acceptable evidence of guilt.” This instance of restraint and self-regulation within the court was a rare occurrence within the greater European witch trials, yet it stands as a piece of important evidence towards Levack’s ideas: mass witchcraft trials were a local grab at power, rather than a centralized attempt at control.


de Waardt, Hans. “Witchcraft and Wealth: The Case of the Netherlands.” Oxford Handbooks Online. 19 Nov. 2014. 7.

Levack, Brian P. “State-Building and Witch-Hunting.” In The Witchcraft Reader, edited by Darren Oldridge, 185-97. London: Routledge, 2002

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