Reviews

“Maeve Callan’s readable, well-structured, and scholarly book examines Irish medieval heresy trials of the volatile fourteenth century through the lens of three little-studied, interlocking case studies. Its introductory chapter offers a solid overview of Ireland’s distinctive brand of Christianity and the divisions this caused after Gregorian Reform and the Norman Conquest of England. It also skilfully situates the book within existing historiography and states clearly how it throws light on a number of important areas, including: the relationships between the English, Irish, and Anglo-Irish ethnic groupings in Ireland, and how the Church influenced them; the political, cultural, and gender aspects of heresy; and the tensions that existed within the Church hierarchy itself, and between spiritual and secular authority. . . Callan makes historiographically novel and ambitious points . . . Callan should be applauded for the often brilliant way she breathes new life into the Kyteler case. . . Callan’s book is a novel, commendable study of the political, interpersonal, and to a lesser extent ethnic issues that underpinned “artificial” Irish heresy trials in the fourteenth century. It displays a deep understanding of the period and the people involved and will be read with profit by students of all levels of late medieval Ireland, as well as those studying sorcery trials in the pre- witch-hunt period.” Andrew Sneddon, author of Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland and Possessed by the Devil, in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft (2017).

“Maeve Brigid Callan weaves Irish and wider European patterns together convincingly in her account of incidents concerning heresy and witchcraft that occurred in Ireland between 1310 and 1360 … Analysis of the trial for witchcraft of Alice Kyteler in 1324 takes up the majority of Callan’s book, and she has much that is new and significant to say about it … Callan is at pains to place this incident – well-known in the history of European witchcraft – in its proper Irish context, and in so doing adds to our understanding of the social history of the island in the fourteenth century … this is a bold, fresh and scholarly account that will be warmly welcomed by medieval historians and the general reader wishing to enter the stormy world of fourteenth-century Ireland.” Brendan Smith, University of Bristol, author of Colonisation and Conquest in Medieval Ireland: The English in Louth, 1171-1330, in The Tablet (May 2015).

“Heresy in Ireland has been a neglected topic, and this well-researched work is a welcome contribution to our understanding of it; prospective readers should not be deterred by the populist title given to the book.” Art Cosgrove, University College Dublin, editor of A New History of Ireland, author of Marriage in Ireland, in American Historical Review (June 2016)

“all the chapters in this book evidence Callan’s meticulous research and careful engagement with the available primary materials, readable prose style, and awareness of the current arguments in the field. . .  This book will be a welcome addition to the fields of ecclesiastical studies, Irish studies, and the medieval history discipline. Callan’s methodical approach in examining the uses and misuses of heresy in medieval Ireland will position this book as a mainstay of the field. Callan considers and in many cases rejects or corrects ongoing perceptions of Irish history, which are often tainted by the colonial lens. By reframing the investigation into heresies in Ireland with the additional contexts of the crusades and heresy trials both in Europe and England, Callan’s valuable contribution renegotiates our understanding of heresy, Laudabiliter, and Irish colonial and ecclesiastical history. . . Her bibliography is exhaustive, including over twenty pages of primary and secondary sources, demonstrating her fluency with the history of the research on this topic as well as the requisite manuscripts containing the pertinent records and chronologies of such events. Callan’s style is vivid and evocative of her level of comfort with the topic. Discussion of each trial relies heavily on descriptions from witness testimonies as well as the available legal records, allowing Callan to reconstruct the circumstances of each trial for her readership. Her deft handling of interdisciplinary approaches and the extensive usage of primary sources to set up the trials discussed makes this book an entertaining read for both students and seasoned scholars of Irish studies.” Sarah Sprouse, Texas Tech University, Comitatus (2016)

“The Templars, the Witch and the Wild Irish is a brilliant and accessible case study of witchcraft and heresy …. Exploring the competing forces of gender, politics, colonialism, religion and theology in a unique and limited period of Irish cultural history, this book also offers distinctive insights into our understanding of the factors involved in contemporary violence carried out under religious and/or political auspices.” Mary Condren, Trinity College Dublin, author of The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion and Power in Celtic Ireland.

“a well-written and interesting work, which provides a template for how diligent historians can make use of fragmentary sources by combining close reading with sensitivity to both local and broader contexts.”  Yvonne Searle, University of Iowa, in Eolas: The Journal of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies (2016).

“A very interesting argument about medieval manipulations of religion and politics . . . Callan’s detective work helps her reconstruct overlapping ecclesiastical, colonial, and family conflicts that helped spur these trials and temporarily made heresy a valuable weapon in the long war for Ireland.” Lisa Bitel, author of Land of Women and Isle of the Saints, in The Journal of Religion (April 2017).

“Callan explores her topic through close, almost forensic, examination of key episodes between 1310 and 1353 . . . The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish is a welcome addition to medieval Irish scholarship, and one hopes that it will provoke further discussion and research into the perplexing questions of the roles of religion and ethnicity in medieval Ireland.” Dianne Hall, Victoria University, author of Women and the Church in Medieval Ireland, in The Journal of British Studies (April 2017).

“In The Templars, the Witch and the Wild Irish, Maeve Brigid Callan presents in detail material important for understanding both fourteenth-century Ireland and the development of witchcraft trials in western Europe. She looks at the subject as a whole, showing the relationship between the various accusations of heresy and witchcraft during the first half of the fourteenth century and putting these events into their wider context.” Helen Nicholson, Cardiff University, author of The Proceedings against the Templars in the British Isles.

The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish is a valuable book that will become the standard work on heresy and witchcraft in medieval Ireland. Maeve Brigid Callan provides some very useful and important correctives to the conventional view of Irish heresy and witchcraft.”  Frank Klaassen, University of Saskatchewan, author of The Transformations of Magic: Illicit Learned Magic in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance

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