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Of all the epithets popularly attached to the Middle Ages, 'superstitious' is perhaps the most common and most misleading. The eighteenth-century view that the era was represented by the Catholic Church and therefore backward and 'dark', in contrast to their own times which were forward-looking, rational and 'scientific', has created a myth which successive centuries have perpetuated. This fascinating study challenges the assumption that the medieval period was an age of superstition, offering students a varied collection of documents surveying what people throughout Europe actually thought and believed about the occult sciences at the time. Using translated extracts - many of which appear in English for the first time - from religious, legal, medical and scientific documents, P. G. Maxwell-Stuart presents and explores the various branches of magic, divination, astrology and alchemy which helped people to make sense of their world.
P.G. MAXWELL-STUART is a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of St Andrews, UK.