Law and the Crime of Practicing Popular Medicine in Early Modern Society

06 January 2014

Research into the ecclesiastical court records of Northwest England suggests that legal accusations initiated by the community were spontaneous demonstrations of fear that increased during periods of social dislocation, principally when large numbers of children died at any one time in a particular community. There is evidence to suggest that the cunning folk were caught up in these community outpourings of anguish and were often held responsible by members of the community for causing the misfortune. The primary documents consulted for this investigation provide an important historical source. They offer an insight into a little understood social account of the widespread affairs and popular form of treatment that contributes a unique perspective of popular medicine and the connection with the supernatural world, while offering an insight into the lives and mentalities of villagers and townspeople of early modern England.