Based at Bristol University, the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded leadership project ‘Creative Histories of Witchcraft, France 1790-1940’ looks for answers to these questions through a combination of research into witchcraft in the long nineteenth century, and creative collaborations with writers and performers.

The project is the first attempt to document criminal cases involving witchcraft in France from 1790-1940. It draws on digitized versions of over two hundred and fifty different regional and national newspapers, as well as research in more than thirty different regional and national archives.

But the project extends beyond this topic, to a wider consideration of creativity and history. How do historians and creative practitioners work together? What do they gain by doing so, and what risks do they run?

Historians are not much used to thinking in terms of practice-based research. And yet many are already engaging in different ways of doing and making history, from theatre performances, to music, film, and creative writing.  Witchcraft makes a particularly rich topic for creative collaboration. What makes strange stories real? How do historians write truthfully about uncertain phenomena? How do writers evoke feelings and beliefs respectfully?

The project explores questions like these by bringing together historian Will Pooley with poet Anna Kisby Compton, and playwright Poppy Corbett. The trio will be working closely together throughout 2019 and delivering a series of events at Bristol University and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic at Boscastle. For more news of the project, please follow the Creative Histories of Witchcraft blog.

Image: Will Pooley