Testing the limits: Archbishop Bancroft and exorcism cases in the High Commission

Harmes, Marcus K. (2012) Testing the limits: Archbishop Bancroft and exorcism cases in the High Commission. In: The British World: Religion, Memory, Society, Culture, 2-5 July 2012, Toowoomba, Australia.

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Senior members of the English Church became involved in cases of bewitchment and dispossession in the later-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. They sought to exonerate the elderly women accused of witchcraft and their involvement led to the disproving of the efficacy of exorcisms performed by puritan ministers. Although a number of bishops intervened in witchcraft cases, this work was most assiduously carried out by Richard Bancroft, the Bishop of London. In doing so, Bancroft came head to head against the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Sir Edmund Anderson, and more broadly against judges and justices of the peace who accepted the verity of cases of possessions and accusations of bewitchment. Particular cases therefore reveal themselves as occasions where episcopacy and judiciary clashed. However these should not be read as cases of the Church versus the Law. The Church was part of the law, in terms of contemporary understandings of the origin of divine positive law. However the cases do suggest that cases involving exorcists were opportunities to propagandize against the episcopate and the justice it delivered via the High Commission. Accordingly Bancroft became involved in these cases because they were opportunities for bishops to assert the authority of their order and the High Commission against their opponents’ polemic and were a means to articulate the scope of episcopal authority.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Chapter 10. © The Contributors and Editors.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - School of Humanities and Communication
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2012 01:32
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2014 01:55
Uncontrolled Keywords: church and state; religious power; law courts; authority; Elizabethan England; Richard Bancroft (d.1610); John Darrel; High Commission; witchcraft
Fields of Research : 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210305 British History
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220405 Religion and Society
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180119 Law and Society
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/22026

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