2020 applicants

Professor Alison Rowlands

Department of History
Professor Alison Rowlands
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 874895

  • Location

    5NW.8.15, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    My academic support hours for the summer term of 2020 are 15.00-16.00 on Mondays and Tuesdays. You can e-mail me during these hours (alisonc@essex.ac.uk) or get in touch in advance to arrange a meeting over Zoom or by phone. You can also set up an alternative meeting time if these times are inconvenient.



I grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, attending local state schools before going to St. Hilda's College, Oxford to study History from 1984-87. I graduated with a First Class degree, then undertook doctoral research in early modern German history at Clare College, Cambridge, 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-c.1618, in 1995, while teaching part-time at the University of Durham from 1990-92. I joined the Department of History at the University of Essex as Lecturer in European History in 1992, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2003 and Professor in 2014. I was Head of Department from 2011-14 and am currently the departmental Director of Research. My teaching specialisms are in the histories of early modern Europe, with particular focus on Germany; the histories of magic, witchcraft and witch-trials; the history of gender; and the history of the Thirty Years War (1618-48). I am also very interested in enabling students to develop their research skills and currently lead our second and final-year undergraduate capstone project modules. My main research interests are in the histories of magic, witchcraft, witch-trials and demonology, with particular focus on early modern Germany and Essex/East Anglia; the ways in which witchcraft and witch-trials have been represented and remembered since the early modern period; the social, cultural, religious and gender history of early modern Germany; the history of the Thirty Years War (1618-48); and the history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and early modern German towns. My main current research projects are: A biography of Michael Wirth, a wheelwright who was accused of witchcraft in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1663, plus an article-length study of a 'Kunstbuch' (book of magical arts) belonging to Wirth. Both pieces of research use the exceptionally detailed legal records relating to Wirth's trial and its aftermath (he fled Rothenburg, and wrote several letters to the city council thereafter) in order to explore the themes of identity and self-fashioning; urban masculinity; the gendering of witchcraft and magic; and the militarisation of German society in the wake of the Thirty Years War. A book-length study of the discovery and subsequent fates of the two skeletons that were dug up in the Essex town of St Osyth and identified as the remains of 'witches' in 1921. I am happy to supervise dissertations at B.A., M.A., M.Phil. or Ph.D. level in any of my areas of research interest. I am currently supervising doctoral students working on Quaker notions of masculinity in late-seventeenth-century Essex (Robert Foulkes) and literary representations of the history of the 1612 Lancashire witch-trials (Cody Henry). Other, recently-supervised, dissertations include: The British Press, the University of Essex and Student Protest, 1965-1970, by Jack Street (M.A., 2016: winner of the John S. Appleby Memorial Prize for the best M.A. dissertation on a subject related to the history of Essex). The 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witch-Trials: Commemoration and its Meaning in 2012, by Todd Bridges (M.A. by dissertation, 2016). Royal Self-Fashioning: King James VI and His Demonology, by Tiffany R. Holloman (M.A. by dissertation, 2015). Witchcraft in Early Modern Bergen: A Micro-Historical Approach, by Lisa Lovheim (M.A., 2011). Manningtree Rogues: The role of the searchers working during the East Anglian Witch-Hunt, 1645-1647, by Joanne Maclachlan (M.A., 2011). Women's Work and Paternalism in the Industrial Revolution. The Case of the Female Weavers in Samuel III Courtaulds Silk Factory in Halstead, 1825-1881, by Margarita Stylianou (M.A., 2010). Clerical masculinity in England, with particular focus on Essex and Suffolk, c. 1620-c.1700, by Patricia Tate (M.Phil., 2007). Ideology and Identity. Married Women's Experience, c.1800-1900, by Carole Williams (Ph.D. co-supervision, 2006).


  • 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

Research and professional activities

Research interests

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.

Open to supervise

The history of gender, with particular focus on masculinity in early modern Germany.

Open to supervise

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.

Open to supervise

The ways in which early modern witch trials are remembered and commemorated in modern culture.

Open to supervise

Current research

Masculinity in early modern Germany, especially in the urban/clerical context.

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 wheelwright accused of witchcraft in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1663.

An article-length study of the 'Kunstbuch' (or book of magical arts) belonging to the 17th-century Rothenburg wheelwright Michael Wirth.

The history of the discovery and subsequent fates of the St Osyth 'witch' skeletons of 1921.

Conferences and presentations

'Witchcraft and Magic: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives', interdisciplinary workshop, University of Durham.

Durham, United Kingdom, 2019

'Implementing ‘reformation(s)’: Religion and society in Lutheran Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1520-1700', Reformation Studies Colloquium, University of Essex (2018).

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2018

'"...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 Series, 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).

Erfurt, Germany, 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).

Bruges, Belgium, 2016

'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).

Limerick, Ireland, 2015

'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 Tromso (2014).

Tromso, Norway, 2014

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

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2012

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

Rothenburg, Germany, 2011

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

Weingarten, Germany, 2010

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

St Osyth, United Kingdom, 2010

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

Maldon, United Kingdom, 2010

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); at the Sentinel Gallery, Wivenhoe (2016); and at firstsite, Colchester, and to the VCH Essex AGM, Harwich (2019).

Colchester, United Kingdom, 2010

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Europe Transformed: 1450-1750 (HR111)

  • Approaches to History (HR211)

  • Choosing Your Past: How to Design and Manage a Research Project (HR231)

  • Human Rights in Historical Perspective (HR291)

  • Research Project (HR831)

Previous supervision

Todd Andrew Bridges
Todd Andrew Bridges
Thesis title: The 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witch-Trials: Commemoration and its Meaning in 2012
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Arts (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 1/7/2016
Tiffany Rodrika Holloman
Tiffany Rodrika Holloman
Thesis title: Royal Self-Fashioning: King James Vi and His Demonology
Degree subject: History
Degree type: Master of Arts (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 1/12/2015


Journal articles (31)

Rowlands, A., (2020). The Witch-cleric Stereotype in a Seventeenth-Century Lutheran Context. German History. 38 (1), 1-23

Rowlands, A., (2020). Identity, Memory, Self-fashioning: Narratives of Non-confession in the Witch-trial of Margaretha Horn, 1652. Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft. 14 (3), 336-370

Rowlands, A., (2018). Zeiten des Teufels: Teufelsvorstellungen und Geschichtszeit in frühreformatorischen Flugschriften (1520–1526). German History. 36 (3), 440-441

Rowlands, A., (2016). Gender, Ungodly Parents and a Witch Family in Seventeenth-Century Germany. Past and Present. 232 (1), 45-86

Rowlands, A., (2016). Father confessors and clerical intervention in witch-trials in seventeenth-century Lutheran Germany: The case of Rothenburg, 1692. English Historical Review. 131 (552), 1010-1042

Rowlands, A., (2012). The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Village (review). Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft. 7 (1), 121-124

Rowlands, A., (2012). "Ein verschlagener Geist": Vorstellungen des Teufels in den Hexenprozessen der Reichsstadt Rothenburg ob der Tauber ["A Cunning Spirit": Ways of Imagining the Devil in the Witch-Trials of the Imperial City of Rothenburg ob der Tauber]. Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte. 103, 210-236

(2011). Tryntje Helfferich, ed. and translator, The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History, Hackett Publishing Company: Indianapolis, IN, 2009; 332 pp., 1 map, 9 illus.; 9780872209398, £13.95 (pbk). European History Quarterly. 41 (4), 703-704

Rowlands, A., (2011). What did Thomas Plume think about witchcraft? Reconstructing the intellectual outlook of a little-known 17th-century English sceptic. Essex archaeology and history : the transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society. 2 (4th series), 196-206

Rowlands, A., (2009). 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. 69, 173-185

Rowlands, A., (2009). Männer in Hexenprozessen. Ein historiographischer Überblick aus anglo-amerikanischer Perspektive’ (Men in Witch Trials. An Historiographical Overview from an Anglo-American Perspective). @KIH-eSkript. Interdisziplinäre Hexenforschung online 1, 2009: Männer, Magie und Hexenverfolgung (1), 23-39

Rowlands, A., (2008). 'Superstition', Magic, and Clerical Polemic in Seventeenth-Century Germany. Past and Present. 199 (Supp 3), 157-177

Rowlands, A., (2006). Contextualizing Magic and Witchcraft in the Novels of Margery Allingham: The Examples of Sweet Danger and Look to the Lady. Clues: A Journal of Detection. 23 (1), 49-60

Rowlands, A., (2005). Die Verfolgung von Zauberei und Hexerei in den fränkischen Markgraftümern im 16. Jahrhundert. By Susanne  Kleinöder‐Strobel. Spätmittelalter und Reformation, new series, volume 20. Edited by, Berndt  Hamm et al. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002. Pp. xv+332. €69.00.. The Journal of Modern History. 77 (4), 1134-1136

ROWLANDS, A., (2005). N. Schindler, Rebellion, community and custom in early modern Germany, translated by Pamela E. Selwyn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.) Pages xiv+311. £55.00. (First published in German as Widerspenstige Leute. Studien zur Volkskultur in der frühen Neuzeit (Fischer Tashenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1992).). Continuity and Change. 20 (1), 148-151

Rowlands, A., (2004). A long disenchantment. TLS - The Times Literary Supplement (5331), 3-4

Rowlands, A., (2002). The 'Little Witch Girl' of Rothenburg: a child-witch in Germany during the Thirty Years' War. History Review. 42, 27-32

Rowlands, A., (2001). Witchcraft and old women in early modern Germany. Past and Present. 173 (4), 50-89

Rowlands, A., (2001). Review of H. C. Erik Midelfort, 'A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany'. German History. 19 (2)

Rowlands, A., (2001). Review of Ulinka Rublack, 'The Crimes of Women in Early Modern Germany 'and Margaret L. Arnot and Cornelie Usborne (ed), 'Gender and Crime in Modern Europe'. Gender & History. 13 (1)

Rowlands, A., (1999). Review of Ingrid Ahrendt-Schulte, Zauberinnen in der Stadt Horn (1554-1603). Magische Kultur und Hexenverfolgung in der frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt am Main & New York, Campus, 1997). German History. 17 (2)

Rowlands, A., Chartres, JA., Burchell, RA., Raibmon, P., Kale, M. and Burton, A., (1998). Short notices. Social History. 23 (2), 241-247

Rowlands, A., (1998). Reordering marriage and society in Reformation Germany. SOCIAL HISTORY. 23 (1), 103-104

Rowlands, A., (1998). Telling Witchcraft Stories: New Perspectives on Witchcraft and Witches in the Early Modern Period. Gender & History. 10 (2), 294-302

Rowlands, A., (1997). Fearless wives and frightened shrews: The construction of the witch in early modern Germany - Brauner,S. SOCIAL HISTORY. 22 (2), 223-225

Rowlands, A., (1997). Between poverty and pyre: Moments in the history of widowhood - Bremmer,J, vandenBosch,L. HISTORY. 82 (265), 106-107

Rowlands, A., (1997). The making of man-midwifery. Childbirth in England, 1660-1770 - Wilson,A. JOURNAL OF GENDER STUDIES. 6 (3), 326-327

Rowlands, A., (1997). Germany, a new social and economic history, vol 1, 1450-1630. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW. 112 (448), 947-948

Rowlands, A., (1997). 'In Great Secrecy': the Crime of Infanticide in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1501-1618. German History. 15 (2), 179-199

Rowlands, A., (1995). Change achieved, change thwarted: religion and society in Reformation Europe. The Historical Journal. 38 (3), 671-678

Rowlands, A., (1994). To wear a virgin's wreath: gender and problems of conformity in early modern Germany. European Review of History. 1 (2)

Books (4)

Rowlands, A., (2018). Witchcraft narratives in Germany. 0719052599. 9781847795205

Rowlands, A., (2013). Eine Reichsstadt ohne Hexenwahn Hexenprozesse, Gerichtspraxis und Herrschaft im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Jahrbuch des Verein Alt-Rothenburg 2013. 978-3-944109-06-0

Rowlands, A., (2009). Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe. Palgrave Macmillan. 023055329X. 9780230553293

Rowlands, A., (2003). Witchcraft Narratives in Germany Rothenburg, 1561-1652. Manchester University Press. 184779520X. 9781847795205

Book chapters (17)

Rowlands, A., (2018). 'Witch' finding in Manningtree, 1645. In: Stour.. Editors: Philo, R., . Estuarine Press. 20- 22. 9-780955-922657

Rowlands, A., (2017). Eine lutherische Reichsstadt ohne Hexenwahn – Rothenburg ob der Tauber von 1550 bis 1750. In: Mit dem Schwert oder festem Glauben” – Luther und die Hexen. Editors: Hirte, M., . Konrad Theiss. 176- 190

Rowlands, A., (2017). Witch-Finders, Patterns of Persecution and Communication Networks During the East Anglian Witch-Hunts of 1645-1647. In: Europäische Hexenforschung und Landesgeschichte - Methoden, Regionen, Vergleiche. Editors: Voltmer, R., . Paulinus Verlag

Rowlands, A., (2015). "…ein armes verführtes und betrogenes Kind….". Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1587-1709. Editors: Behringer, W. and Opitz-Belakhal, C., . Verlag für Regionalgeschichte. 257- 266

Rowlands, A., (2014). Eine Reichsstadt ohne “Hexenwahn”: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1550-1750. In: Hexenwahn in Franken. Editors: Mergenthaler, M. and Klein-Pfeuffer, M., . J H Röll Verlag. 262- 275

Rowlands, A., (2013). Witchcraft and gender in early modern Europe. In: The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. Editors: Levack, BP., . Oxford University Press,. 449- 467. 9780199578160

Rowlands, A., (2012). Witchcraft and popular religion in early modern Rothenburg Obder Tauber. In: New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic and Demonology: Witchcraft, Healing, and Popular Diseases. 153- 171. 0815336748. 9780815336747

Rowlands, A., (2009). Not 'the Usual Suspects'? Male Witches, Witchcraft, and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe. 1- 30

Rowlands, A., (2006). Entries on 'Age of accused witches'; 'Goedelmann, Johann Georg'; 'Thumm, Theodor'; 'Warfare'; 'Imperial Free Cities'; 'Noerdlingen, Imperial Free City'; 'Wuerzburg, Prince-Bishopric of'.. In: Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition (4 vols.). Editors: Golden, RM., . ABC-CLIO. 1-57607-243-6

Rowlands, A., (2005). Rothenburg gegen Wuerzburg. Durchsetzung von Herrschaftsanspruechen im Hexenprozess der Margaretha Hoerber, 1627. In: Hexenverfolgung und Herrschaftspraxis. Editors: Voltmer, R., . Spee Verlag. 113- 127. 3-87760-129-4

Rowlands, A., (2003). '...wie der Poebel gemeinlich auss einer Mucken einen Elefanten zumachen pflegt...' - Ratskonsulent Friedrich Prenninger und seine Gutachten in drei Hexenprozessen im fruehneuzeitlichen Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In: Staedte, Regionen, Vergleiche. Beitraege fuer Ludwig Schnurrer zum 75. Geburtstag.. Editors: Borchardt, K. and Tittmann, E., . Kommissionsverlag Ferdinand Schoeningh. 285- 304. 3-87717-065-X

Rowlands, A., (2002). Stereotypes and statistics: Old women and accusations of witchcraft in early modern Europe. In: Power and Poverty. Old Age in the Pre-Industrial Past. Editors: Ottaway, SR., Botelho, LA. and Kittredge, K., . Greenwood Press. 167- 186. 0-313-31128-5

Rowlands, A., (2002). Monstrous deception: midwifery, fraud and gender in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In: Gender in Early Modern German History. Editors: Rublack, U., . Cambridge University Press. 71- 101. 0-521-81398-0

Rowlands, A., (2002). Eine Stadt ohne 'Hexenwahn': Hexenprozesse, Gerichtspraxis und Herrschaft im fruehneuzeitlichen Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In: Hexenprozesse und Gerichtspraxis. Editors: Eiden, H. and Voltmer, R., . Spee Verlag. 331- 347. 3-87760-128-6

Rowlands, A., (1999). The conditions of life for the masses, 1500-1618. In: Early Modern Europe. An Oxford History.. Editors: Cameron, E., . Oxford University Press. 31- 62. 0-19-820528-7

Rowlands, A., (1997). 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. Editors: Cordon, MV. and Esteller, MC., . Murcia University Publications. 45- 49

Rowlands, A., (1996). Witchcraft and Popular Religion in early modern Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In: Popular Religion in Germany and Central Europe, 1400-1800. Editors: Scribner, B. and Johnson, T., . Macmillan. 101- 118. 0-333-61457-7

Conferences (1)

Rowlands, A., (2009). Witchcraft and Masculinities in Early Modern Europe Preface


+44 (0) 1206 874895


5NW.8.15, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

My academic support hours for the summer term of 2020 are 15.00-16.00 on Mondays and Tuesdays. You can e-mail me during these hours (alisonc@essex.ac.uk) or get in touch in advance to arrange a meeting over Zoom or by phone. You can also set up an alternative meeting time if these times are inconvenient.