Witchfinder General

Witchfinder General

 

Vincent Price in the 1968 Tigon production of Witchfinder General, playing the title character, Matthew Hopkins, who terrorises the countryside during the 17th century Civil War.
The real Matthew Hopkins (c.1620 – 12 August 1647) was an English witch-hunter whose career flourished during the English Civil War. He claimed to hold the office of Witchfinder General, although that title was never bestowed by Parliament. His witch-hunts mainly took place in East Anglia.
Hopkins’ witch-finding career began in March 1643 and lasted until his retirement in 1647. He and his associates were responsible for more people being hanged for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years and were solely responsible for the increase in witch trials during those years. He is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 300 women between the years 1644 and 1646. It has been estimated that all of the English witch trials between the early 15th and late 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions for witchcraft. Therefore, presuming the number executed as a result of “investigations” by Hopkins and his colleague John Stearne is at the lower end of the various estimates, their efforts accounted for about 60 per cent of the total; in the 14 months of their crusade Hopkins and Stearne sent to the gallows more people than all the other witch-hunters in England of the previous 160 years.

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