Academic Staff

Professor Alison Rowlands

Staff positionProfessor in European History
Office hoursAutumn Term 2016: Monday 11-12 and Friday 10.30-11.30.

I have been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember, although my specific enthusiasm for the early modern period (1450-1750) developed during my undergraduate years at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford. After graduating with a First Class degree in 1987, I 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 Ph.D. thesis, Women, Gender and Power in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and its Rural Environs, 1500-1618, 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 the following projects:

A study of the concept of the 'witch-family' in the early modern German context.

Clerics as accused witches and as 'father confessors' in German witch-trials.

Elite masculinity in early modern Germany, espeically in the urban/clerical context.

A 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, prostitution, and the Thirty Years War.
  • 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 modern resonances of early modern witch-hunting (ie: 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

Current teaching responsibilities include the following modules:

Modules taught solely by me:

HR628 (3rd-year undergraduate Special Subject): Witches, Witchcraft and Witch-Hunts in Early Modern Europe and New England; HR282 (2nd-year optional module): Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England.
HR259 (2nd-year undergraduate optional module): The Thirty Years War (1614-1648): A Military, Social and Cultural History
HR922 (MA module): Gender in Early Modern Europe

Modules on which I teach as part of a teaching team:

HR111 (1st-year core module): Society, Culture and Politics in Europe, 1500-1750.

HR211 (2nd-year compulsory module): Making Histories: Concepts, Themes and Sources

HR212 (2nd-year optional module): Public History Project Module: Bourne Mill, Colchester (from the 16th to the 21st Century)

HR291 (2nd-year optional module): Human Rights in Historical Perspective

CS102 (1st-year optional HCS Faculty module): Europe: Myth and Idea

HR105: (1st-year optional module): Themes in Global History


Authored books

  • Witchcraft Narratives in Germany: Rothenburg, 1561-1652, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2003).
  • Eine Reichsstadt ohne Hexenwahn. Hexenprozesse, Gerichtspraxis und Herrschaft im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg, 2013).

Edited book

  • Alison Rowlands (ed.), Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

Academic journal articles

  • 'Gender, Ungodly Parents and a Witch Family in Seventeenth-Century Germany', Past & Present 2016 232 (1), pp. 45-86. See:
    For a blog relating to this article, see
  • '"Ein verschlagener Geist": Vorstellungen des Teufels in den Hexenprozessen der Reichsstadt Rothenburg ob der Tauber', Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, vol. 13 (2012), pp. 266-292.
  • 'What did Thomas Plume think about witchcraft? Reconstructing the intellectual outlook of a little-known 17th-century English sceptic', Essex Archaeology and History, Vol. 2 (4th series, 2011), pp. 196-206.
  • 'Die “Flohfrau von Bettenfeld”: Strategien des Widerstandes in einem fränkischen Hexenprozeβ des 17. Jahrhunderts’ (‘The “Flea-Woman of Bettenfeld”: Strategies of Resistance in a Seventeenth-Century Franconian Witch-Trial’), Jahrbuch für fränkische Landesforschung, vol. 69 (2009), pp.173-185.
  • 'Contextualising magic and witchcraft in the novels of Margery Allingham: the examples of Sweet Danger and Look to the Lady', CLUES: A Journal of Detection, vol. 23, no. 1 (2004), pp. 49-60.
  • 'Witchcraft and old women in early modern Germany', Past and Present, vol. 173, no. 4 (2001), pp. 50-89.
  • 'In great secrecy: the crime of infanticide in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1501-1618', German History, vol. 15, no. 2 (1997), pp. 179-99.
  • 'To wear a virgin's wreath: gender and problems of conformity in early modern Germany', European Review of History, vol. 1, no. 2 (1994), pp. 227-32.

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).
  • 'Eine Reichsstadt ohne 'Hexenwahn': 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. 
  • 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 am also credited as the translator (from German into English) of 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 “witch-panics”: 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

  • ‘A long disenchantment: witch belief and witch persecution across the centuries, and the world’, Times Literary Supplement, No. 5331, June 3 2005, pp.3-4. 
  • ‘Telling witchcraft stories: new perspectives on witchcraft and witches in the early modern period’, Gender & History, 10:2 (1998), pp.294-302.
  • ‘Change achieved, change thwarted: religion and society in Reformation Europe’, The Historical Journal, 38:3 (1995), pp.671-678.

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).
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; below is a selection of the most recent:

Teuflischer Betrug? Vorstellungen des Bösen im frühneuzeitlichen Rothenburg ob der Tauber,  AKIH Tagung, Teuflische Beziehungen – teuflische Gestalten: Der dämonische Kontrapunkt des Hexenglaubens, Stuttgart-Hohenheim (2008)

Männer in der Hexenverfolgung. Ein Uberblick aus angloamerikanischer Perspektive, AKIH Tagung, Männer, Magie und Hexenverfolgung, Stuttgart-Hohenheim (2009).

‘Wherein all men may see what a pestilent people witches are’. The St Osyth Witch-Trials of 1582 and 1645’, Lecture for the St Osyth Heritage Action Group, St Osyth, Essex (2009).

‘Ein armes, verführtes und betrogenes Kind, so sich wieder auf den rechten Weg leiten lassen will?’ Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, AKIH Tagung Hexenkinder, Kinderbanden, Strassenkinder, Weingarten (2010).

A brief history of women’s football, in the Performance strand of the Essex University What’s Around the Corner? event, Essex Book Festival, Colchester Public Library, Colchester (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, Vortragsreihe des Vereins Alt-Rothenburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2011).

‘Was Witch Persecution in Early Modern Europe an Atrocity?’, Atrocity in Question Conference, University of Essex (2012).

I have also given talks about the Essex and East Anglian witch-hunts of 1645-7 in the Slackspace lecture series Alternative Voices: Historical Perspectives on Witchcraft and Paganism in the East, Colchester (2010); at the Open House Event, University of Essex (2010); 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 (2012); and at the Wivenhoe Society AGM (2012).

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