European Science in 17th Century Russian Witchcraft Trials

10 June 2014, 12:00 - 14:00

CRASSH Seminar room SG1

'Is that a Magic Herb?' The Role of European Science in Seventeenth-Century Russian Witchcraft Trials

Dr Clare Griffin (HPS, University of Cambridge)
Respondent: Valentina Pugliano (University of Cambridge)


From at least 1628 until the early decades of the eighteenth century, physicians employed at the Russian court were periodically asked to give expert testimony on the herbs and roots presented as evidence in witchcraft trials. This situation was unusual. Although medical practitioners often played a role in witchcraft trials elsewhere in Europe, their role was typically to examine the human body rather than plants. Moreover, physicians at the seventeenth-century Russian court were foreigners born and educated in Western Europe, who did not speak any Russian and who otherwise had little contact with the Muscovite legal system. This talk will examine these trial records as a form of inter-cultural knowledge exchange, highlighting how productive exchange was shaped by the sometimes-conflicting concepts of the appropriate limits of medical expertise held by experts and patrons





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