Academic Staff

Professor Alison Rowlands

Staff positionProfessor in European History
Office hoursI am on research leave in the Spring and Summer Terms of 2017.

I grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, taking O and A levels at a local state school before going to St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, where I studied History from 1984-87. I graduated with a First Class degree, then went on to Cambridge to undertake doctoral research in early modern German history at Clare College under the supervision of Bob Scribner. I completed my D.Phil. thesis, Women, Gender and Power in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and its Rural Environs, 1500-c.1618, in 1995. I taught part-time at the University of Durham from 1990-92, then joined the Department of History at the University of Essex as a Lecturer in European History in 1992. I became a Senior Lecturer in 2002, Director of the Centre for Local and Regional History in 2008, Professor in 2014, and was Head of Department from 2011-14.


B.A. History (Honours), St Hilda's College, Oxford, 1987

Ph.D. in History, Clare College, Cambridge, 1995

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2012

Current research

I am currently working on masculinity in early modern Germany, especially in the urban/clerical context, and specifically the following projects:

An article-length study of the trial and execution for adultery of Lutheran cleric Hans Georg Hopf in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1629. 

A biographical study of Michael Wirth, a cartwright who was accused of witchcraft in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1663.

An article-length study of the 'Kunstbuch' (or book of magical arts) belonging to Michael Wirth.

I also have an ongoing research interest in the history of the discovery and fates of the St Osyth 'witch' skeletons of 1921. 

Research interests

My main areas of research interest are:

  • The history of the German, former imperial city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and its rural hinterland, with particular focus on witchcraft, magic, gender, crime, midwifery, religion and the Reformation, prostitution, and the Thirty Years War.
  • The history of gender, with particular focus on masculinity in early modern Germany.
  • The history of witchcraft, magic and witch-persecution in early modern Germany, England, and Europe. I am especially interested in these histories in the local contexts of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Franconia in Germany, and Essex and East Anglia in England.
  • The ways in which early modern witch trials are remembered and commemorated in modern culture.

Supervision interests
I am happy to supervise research in any of the areas listed above and also in the more general areas of

  • early modern German history
  • the Thirty Years War
  • the history of the early modern German town
  • gender, religion and magic in early modern Europe
  • local history.

Supervision topics

I supervise several B.A. dissertations and one or two M.A. dissertations in my main areas of research interest every year. Recently supervised M.A. dissertations include:
Witchcraft in Early Modern Bergen: A Micro-Historical Approach (2011), by Lisa Lovheim

‘Manningtree Rogues’: The role of the searchers working during the East Anglian Witch-Hunt, 1645-1647 (2011), by Joanne Maclachlan

Women’s Work and Paternalism in the Industrial Revolution. The Case of the Female Weavers in Samuel III Courtauld’s Silk Factory in Halstead, 1825-1881 (2010) by Margarita Stylianou.

At MA by Dissertation level, I supervised The 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witch-Trials: Commemoration and its Meaning in 2012 (2016), by Todd Bridges

At M.Phil. level, I supervised Clerical masculinity in England, with particular focus on Essex and Suffolk, c. 1620-c.1700 (2007), by Patricia Tate.

At doctoral level, I sat on the supervisory boards of students who have successfully completed doctoral theses on sexual violence in early modern England; women’s healthcare in early modern England and France; gender and domestic violence in 18th-century Malta; never-married people in 19th-century England and Wales; Caribbean womanhood and beauty contests; 19th-century Essex seaside resorts; manhood and authority in the armies of the 17th-century British civil wars; story-telling in the Scottish traveller community; and the enumeration of women's work in the British census. I was co-supervisor of the D.Phil. thesis Ideology and Identity. Married Women’s Experience, c.1800-1900, by Carole Williams (2006).

Currently I supervise a D.Phil. thesis on Quaker notions of masculinity in England, 1655-1760, by Rob Foulkes; and an MA dissertation on media representations of student protest at the University of Essex in the late 1960s, by Jack Street.  

Teaching responsibilities

Undergraduate modules:

HR111 Society, Culture and Politics in Europe, 1500-1750.

HR212 Public History Project Module: Bourne Mill, Colchester (from the 16th to the 21st Century)

HR259 The Thirty Years War (1614-1648): A Military, Social and Cultural History.

HR282 Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England.

HR628 Witches, Witchcraft and Witch-Hunts in Early Modern Europe and New England.

MA module: HR922 Gender in Early Modern Europe, 1450-1750.

I also lecture on:

HR105: Themes in Global History

HR211 Making Histories: Concepts, Themes and Sources

HR291 Human Rights in Historical Perspective

CS102: Europe: Myth and Idea.


Authored books

  • Witchcraft Narratives in Germany: Rothenburg, 1561-1652, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003). This is freely available online: see;keyword=Rowlands
  • Eine Reichsstadt ohne Hexenwahn. Hexenprozesse, Gerichtspraxis und Herrschaft im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (An imperial city without a witch-craze. Witch-trials, the law and lordship in 16th and 17th-century Rothenburg ob der Tauber) (Rothenburg, 2013).

Edited book

Academic journal articles

Contributions to edited works

  • 'Witch-finders, patterns of persecution, and communication networks during the East Anglian witch-hunts of 1645-1647', in Europaische Hexenforschung und Landesgeschichte - Methoden, Regionen, Vergleiche, ed. Rita Voltmer (Paulinus Verlag, Trier, forthcoming).
  • ‘"...ein armes, verführtes und betrogenes Kind...". Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1587-1709' ('"...a poor, seduced and deluded child....". Witch-trials against children in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1587-1709'), in Wolfgang Behringer and Claudia Opitz-Belakhal (eds), Hexenkinder - Kinderbanden - Strassenkinder (Bielefeld, 2016), pp. 257-266.
  • 'Eine Reichsstadt ohne 'Hexenwahn': Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1550-1750' ('An imperial city without a 'witch-craze': Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1550-1750'), in M. Mergenthaler and M. Klein-Pfeuffer (eds), Hexenwahn in Franken (Dettelbach, 2014), pp. 262-275.
  • 'Witchcraft and gender in early modern Europe', in The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, ed. Brian P. Levack (Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 449-467.
  • ‘Not “the usual suspects”? Male witches, witchcraft, and masculinities in early modern Europe’, in A. Rowlands (ed.), Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp.1-30.
  • ‘“Superstition”, Magic and Clerical Polemic in Seventeenth-Century Germany’, in The Religion of Fools? Superstition Past and Present, eds S.A. Smith and Alan Knight (Past and Present Supplement 3, Oxford University Press, 2008), 157-77. See
  • Entries on: Age of Accused Witches (Vol. I, pp. 16-20), Goedelmann, Johann Georg (Vol. II, pp. 448-449), Thumm, Theodor (Vol. IV, pp. 1119-1120), Warfare (Vol. IV, pp. 1180-1182), Imperial Free Cities (Vol. II, pp. 540-544), Nördlingen, Imperial Free City (Vol. III, pp. 831-832), Würzburg, Prince-Bishopric of (Vol. IV, pp. 1230-1232) for the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition, ed. Richard M. Golden (4 volumes; ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, Denver, and Oxford, UK, 2006). I also translated (from German into English) 12 further entries for this Encyclopedia, all by Rita Voltmer: Ardennes; Flade, Dietrich; Jesuits (Society of Jesus); Loos, Cornelius; Luxembourg, Duchy of; Nassau-Saarbrücken, County of; Pfalz-Zweibrücken, Duchy of; Prätorius, Johannes; Saar Region; Schultheiss, Heinrich von; St. Maximin, Prince-Abbey of; Witch hunts.
  • ‘Rothenburg gegen Würzburg: Durchsetzung von Herrschaftsansprüchen im Hexenprozess der Margaretha Hörber, 1627’, (‘Rothenburg vs. Würzburg: the assertion of claims to lordship in the witch-trial of Margaretha Hörber, 1627’), in Hexenprozesse und Herrschaftspraxis (Witch-Trials and the Practice of Lordship), ed. Rita Voltmer (Trierer Hexenprozesse. Quellen und Darstellungen, vol.7, Spee Verlag, Trier, 2005), pp.113-127.
  • ‘”... wie der Pöbel gemeinlich auss einer Mucken einen Elefanten zumachen pflegt“. – Ratskonsulent Friedrich Prenninger und seine Gutachten in drei Hexenprozessen im frühneuzeitlichen Rothenburg ob der Tauber‘, (‘”It is the habit of the masses to make a mountain out of a molehill”: Jurist Friedrich Prenninger and his opinions in three witch-trials from early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber’), in Städte, Regionen, Vergangenheiten. Beiträge für Ludwig Schnurrer zum 75. Geburtstag (Cities, Regions, Histories. A Festschrift for Ludwig Schnurrer on his 75th Birthday), ed. Karl Borchardt and Ekkehart Tittmann (Würzburg, 2003), pp. 285-304.
  • ‘Stereotypes and statistics: old women and accusations of witchcraft in early modern Europe’, in Susannah Ottaway et al ed., Power and Poverty: Old Age in the Pre-Industrial Past (Greenwood, Connecticut, 2002) pp.167-186.
  • ‘Monstrous deception: midwifery, fraud and gender in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber’, in Gender in Early Modern German History, ed. Ulinka Rublack, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002) pp. 71-101.
  • ‘Eine Stadt ohne “Hexenwahn”: Hexenprozesse, Gerichtspraxis und Herrschaft im frühneuzeitlichen Rothenburg ob der Tauber’, (‘A city without a 'witch-craze': witch-trials, legal procedure and lordship in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber’), in Hexenprozesse und Gerichtspraxis (Witch-Trials and Legal Procedure), ed. Herbert Eiden and Rita Voltmer (Trierer Hexenprozesse. Quellen und Darstellungen, vol.6, Spee Verlag, Trier, 2002), pp.331-347.
  • ‘The conditions of life for the masses, 1500-1618’, in Early Modern Europe. An Oxford History, ed. Euan Cameron (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999), pp.31-62.
  • ‘An aspect of family history in early modern Germany: bad marriages in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1544-c.1618’, in Historia de la Mujer e Historia del Matrimonio, ed. M. Victoria Cordon and Montserrat Carbonell Esteller (Conference Proceedings, Murcia University Publications, Murcia, 1997), pp.45-49.
  • ‘Witchcraft and popular religion in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber’, in Popular Religion in Germany and Central Europe, 1400-1800, ed. Bob Scribner and Trevor Johnson (Macmillan, London, 1996), pp.101-118.
    This article has also been published in New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology (6 vols.), Volume 1: Demonology, Religion and Witchcraft, ed. Brian Levack (Routledge, London, January 2002).

Internet publications

Review articles

Academic magazines

  • ‘The “Little Witch Girl” of Rothenburg: a child-witch in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War’, History Review, 42 (March, 2002), pp.27-32.

Book reviews

I have written numerous book reviews which have appeared since 1992 in the following journals:
Gender & History
English Historical Review
Journal of Gender Studies
Continuity and Change
German Historical Institute Bulletin
European Review of History
Social History Society Bulletin
German History
Social History
Journal of Modern History

European History Quarterly

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft

Other media

Interviewed for a National Geographic TV programme (Bloody Tales from the Tower) about the fate of Guy Fawkes (broadcast 16/04/2012).

Interviewed on Radio 4's Making Histories programme, on sexual violence in witch-trials (August 2011)

One of three guests on Radio 4's Beyond Belief programme, on modern witchcraft (July 2009)
Interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridge about the Jane Wenham witchcraft trial (March 2008)
Interviewed on Anglia TV about modern-day witchcraft (June 2007)
Interviewed on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, about the Malleus Maleficarum (March 2007)
Interviewed on Essex FM Radio, on Essex witchcraft and witch trials (October 2005).
Interviewed on SGR Colchester, on superstitions surrounding Friday 13th (May 2005)
Interviewed on Radio 3’s Night Waves programme, on the history of exorcism (Feb. 2005)
Participated in Radio 4’s In Our Time programme, on the history of witchcraft (Oct. 2004). This was included in Melvyn Bragg (ed.), In Our Time. A companion to the Radio 4 series (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009), pp. 69-89.
Participated in Radio 4’s In Our Time programme, on the history of the Devil (Dec. 2003)
Interviewed about witch-trials in early modern Essex for BBC1’s Halloween edition of the Heaven and Earth Show (1998)
Participated in the making of a documentary for the American TV’s Discovery Channel on early modern witch-hunts (1997)
Contributed German texts and images to the exhibition Witchcraft Persecution in Nuremberg and Franconia (displayed throughout southern Germany since 1997).


I give numerous talks and lectures to academic and public audiences; here are some of the most recent (since 2010):

‘Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber' ('Witch-trials against children in Rothenburg ob der Tauber'), AKIH Tagung Hexenkinder, Kinderbanden, Strassenkinder, Weingarten (2010).

'Bones of Contention? The St Osyth ‘witch’ skeletons of 1921', St Osyth Historical Society Lecture Series, St Osyth, Essex (2010).

'Witchcraft and Witchcraft Beliefs in England during the Lifetime of Thomas Plume (1630-1704)', Annual Plume Lecture, Maldon, Essex (2010).

Das Rothenburger Frauenhaus im 16. Jahrhundert (‘The Rothenburg brothel in the sixteenth century’), Verein Alt-Rothenburg lecture, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2011).

‘Was witch persecution in early modern Europe an 'atrocity'?’, Atrocity in Question Conference, University of Essex (2012).

‘“When will the burning start here? Demonological texts, judicial procedure, and the spread of ideas about witchcraft in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber’, Demons and Witches. The Impact of Demonology on European Witch-hunts conference, University of Tromsø (2014).


Transformations real and imagined: Moments of becoming in witchcraft beliefs and witch-trials in early modern Germany’, plenary lecture at the Moments of Becoming: Transitions and Transformations in Early Modern Europe conference, University of Limerick (2015).


‘“...wie die Kirchenordnung vollzogen werden soll....”. Reformation und Gesellschaft in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1558-1700 (‘“…how the Church Ordinance should be implemented…”. Reformation and society in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1558-1700’), Verein Alt-Rothenburg lecture, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2016).


‘Contested narratives, contesting identities: Witchcraft narratives in legal and social context in early modern Germany’, Narrating Witchcraft: Agency, Discourse and Power conference, University of Erfurt (2016).


‘How ‘Lutheran’ was witch-prosecution in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber? Beliefs, trials and clerical influence in a German imperial city’, Sixteenth Century Studies conference, Bruges (2016).

I give talks about the Essex and East Anglian witch-hunts of 1645-7 regularly to local audiences; for example, in the Slackspace lecture series Alternative Voices: Historical Perspectives on Witchcraft and Paganism in the East, Colchester; at the Open House Event, University of Essex, and in the Centre for East Anglian Studies lecture series at the University of East Anglia (2010); in the Historical Association Lecture Series, Chelmsford (2011); to the University of the Third Age in Southend, and at the Wivenhoe Society AGM (2012); to the Thorpe-le-Soken Allsorts group (2013); and at the Sentinel Gallery, Wivenhoe (2016).

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