The Enemy Within: 2,000 years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World

The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World
by John Demos © 2008
Viking Press
ISBN: 978-0-670019991
336 pages
$25.95 (U.S.)
Reviewed By: Mike Gleason

Within the past several decade several histories of Witchcraft, and the persecution of Witches, have made their way to publishers large and small. Their authors have ranged from far-removed academics to those intimately involved in the subject, and their approaches have varied from dryly historical to vocally anecdotal. This current offering may be unique in its presentation. It is a synthesis of much which has been previously written, aimed at the general reading public, written by a scholar known for his historical work. He has not, however, limited himself to the dusty past, but brings it up-to-date by including details from some modern “witch hunts” (both literal and figurative).

This is not a book about witchcraft, but about witch hunting. It is not written by a witch but by a researcher. It encompasses several broad time frames from the medieval to the modern day.

Professor Demos brings a historian’s eye and discipline to the table where he adds in a novelist’s ability to tell a story. This is a compelling combination and one which makes this book a pleasure and joy to read. The subject matter may be appalling, but the writing makes up for it.

There is information contained herein which I haven’t encountered before primarily because it has been restricted, I suspect, to more scholarly works which I have not read. This resulted in the expansion of my understanding, even after decades of reading.

Professor Demos shows the similarities, and differences between modern day “witch hunts” such as the McCarthy “Red Scare,” child abuse scandals (Fells, Acres gets quite a bit of coverage, as it should), and anti-Masonic feelings.

Personally, I found this book to be both very informative and easy to read. I strongly recommend it if you have any interest in the subject of witch hunting. It is NOT gory and contains no scenes of graphic violence, as that is not Professor Demos’ intention. He looks at the underlying motivations and perceptions which led to both the beginning and ending of the various types of hunts in Europe and North America.



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