Professor Alison Rowlands

Department of History
Professor Alison Rowlands
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 874895

  • Location

    5NW.8.15, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Thursday 16.00-17.00; Friday 14.00-15.00



Ive been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember. As I child I enjoyed family outings to historic buildings, reading historical fiction (the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, first read at age 10, were particular favourites), and studying the Norman Conquest at school. I love the fact that history is fundamentally about people, whose unpredictable decisions and personality quirks affected what happened in the past. I also love the fact that history combines analytical rigour with imaginative creativity. After reading all the sources available for any particular historical event, the historian still has to use his/her imagination to try to explain peoples motivation! I grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, attending a local state school before going to St. Hildas College, Oxford, where I studied History from 1984-87. I graduated with a First Class degree, then undertook doctoral research in early modern German history at Clare College, Cambridge. I completed my D.Phil. thesis, Women, Gender and Power in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and its Rural Environs, 1500-c.1618, in 1995, 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 Professor in 2014, and was Head of Department from 2011-14. 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 Womens Work and Paternalism in the Industrial Revolution. The Case of the Female Weavers in Samuel III Courtaulds Silk Factory in Halstead, 1825-1881(2010) by Margarita Stylianou. At MA by Dissertation level, I supervisedThe 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witch-Trials: Commemoration and its Meaning in 2012(2016), by Todd Bridges At M.Phil. level, I supervisedClerical 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; womens 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. thesisIdeology and Identity. Married Womens 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 onmedia representations of student protestat the University of Essex in the late 1960s,by Jack Street.


  • 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

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

Current research

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

An article-length study of the trial and executionfor 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 thehistory of the discovery and fates ofthe St Osyth 'witch' skeletons of 1921.

Conferences and presentations

Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber' ('Witch-trials against children in Rothenburg ob der Tauber'), AKIH TagungHexenkinder, 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-Rothenburglecture, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (2011).

Was witch persecution in early modern Europe an 'atrocity'?,Atrocity in QuestionConference,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 EuropeanWitch-huntsconference,University ofTromsø (2014).

Transformations real and imagined: Moments of becoming in witchcraft beliefs and witch-trials in early modern Germany, plenary lecture at theMoments of Becoming: Transitions and Transformations in Early Modern Europeconference, 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-Rothenburglecture, 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 Powerconference, 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 Studiesconference, Bruges (2016).

I give talks aboutthe Essex and East Anglian witch-hunts of 1645-7 regularly to local audiences; for example, in the Slackspace lecture seriesAlternative Voices: Historical Perspectives on Witchcraft and Paganism in the East, Colchester;at theOpen House Event, University of Essex, andin 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).

Teaching and supervision

  • Becoming a Historian (HR101)

  • 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)

  • Witches, Witchcraft and Witch-Hunts in Early Modern Europe and New England (Special Subject) (HR628)

  • Research Project (HR831)

  • Gender in Early Modern Europe c.1500- c.1800 (HR922)


Chapters (5)

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

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

Rowlands, A., (2015). "…ein armes verführtes und betrogenes Kind….". Hexenprozesse gegen Kinder in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1587-1709. 257. 266

Rowlands, A., (2014). Eine Reichsstadt ohne “Hexenwahn”: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 1550-1750. Hexenwahn in Franken. Hexenwahn in Franken. 262. 275

Rowlands, A., (2013). Witchcraft and gender in early modern Europe. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America. 449. 467. 9780199578160

Journals (28)

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)

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

Rowlands, A., (2012). The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Village. MAGIC RITUAL AND WITCHCRAFT. 7 (1)

Rowlands, A., (2012). "A crafty Mind": Conceptions of the Devil in the Witch trials of the Imperial City of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. ARCHIV FUR REFORMATIONSGESCHICHTE-ARCHIVE FOR REFORMATION HISTORY. 103

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

Rowlands, A., (2011). The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History. EUROPEAN HISTORY QUARTERLY. 41 (4)

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

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)

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

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

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)

Rowlands, A., (2005). The persecution of sorcery and witchcraft in the Franconian Markgrafttums in the 16th century.. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY. 77 (4)

Rowlands, A., (2005). Rebellion, community and custom in early modern Germany. CONTINUITY AND CHANGE. 20

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

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., (2001). Witchcraft and old women in early modern Germany. Past and Present. 173 (4)

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., (1998). Women and property in early modern England. SOCIAL HISTORY. 23 (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rowlands, A., (1995). Change achieved, change thwarted: religion and society in Reformation Europe. The Historical Journal. 38 (03)

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

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 (1)

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

+44 (0) 1206 874895


5NW.8.15, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Thursday 16.00-17.00; Friday 14.00-15.00