I found the documentary, “Witches: A Century of Murder” on Netflix. It covered the witch trials in Great Britain and discussed some of the key players. The two I found most interesting were King James and Matthew Hopkins.
King James published his book, “Demonology” in 1597 and it quickly become a popular guide for dealing with the perceived witch crisis.
King James studied naturalism and philosophy. His book focused on how to determine if evidence was reliable and how to conduct rational arguments concerning the evidence. He believed in witches and wanted to ensure the evil witches were punished. However, he also wanted to protect the innocent people that may be accused of witchcraft.
Unfortunately, the people of his day were extremely superstitious and paranoid. A book written by the king and proclaiming the reality of witches sent the population into a frenzy. His book was used as an excuse to torture and murder countless innocent victims.
Another influential person during this time was Matthew Hopkins. He was a self-proclaimed Witch Hunter General. Matthew Hopkins traveled all around England to find, torture, and ensure the execution of witches.
The towns paid a fee to Hopkins for every witch that was executed. Obviously, this payment method paved the way to a gross miscarriage of justice.
Matthew Hopkins was particularly brutal when touring his victims and the torture continued until the victim confessed or died. Even those used to the common torture methods of the day were appalled by his behavior.
Eventually, the tide started to turn on Matthew Hopkins. He was no longer seen as a godly man doing the Lord’s work, instead people realized he was an evil man out to make money.
Matthew Hopkins developed tubercles and died before being brought to trial, so he was never punished for his crimes.