The Thomas and Jane Weir trial.

In your major essay you will demonstrate all of your knowledge and analytical skills gained in the course in order to address the question of ‘what was going on’ in the course of the Thomas and Jane Weir trial.

You are to select one or more of the methodological frameworks that we have covered in this course (e.g. , comparisons of elite and popular belief; analysis of gender; discussions of local, state, and religious authority) and apply it to the Weir trials. Using the primary source material covered in Unit 06, as well as the primary and secondary sources covered in previous units, you will be expected to make a clear argument demonstrating how these sources can be used to tell us more about early modern Scottish witch-hunting and society.

Before you begin, you might want to go back and think about the articles we read and discussed in Unit 02. Each of these authors did what you are going to be doing in this assignment: use primary source material from one or more witch trials in order to discuss different aspects of the witch trials using a specific approach.

Think about how these different authors used their sources, and see if you can use this as a starting point for your own research. You are free to pick and choose your methodological approach from those covered in this course. Whichever approach you take, however, should be identified very clearly in your introduction and thesis statement.

The secondary sources that you use to support your research and argument should also clearly relate to this methodological approach. For example, if you decided to write about gender in the Weir trials, you should be using the assigned readings from “Unit 5: Gender in the Witch Trials” to help support your argument and approach (although you can use readings from other Units as well). *the weir trials PDF would not send in full, so if you are able to figure out a way to access it through privileged scholarly sources that your organization has access to then that would be helpful. the url is

The rest of the book can be accessed through this… Your essay should analyze the events of the accusations and of the trial through the various frameworks we have studied in previous units (it should not simply provide a summary of events or simply address the surface issue of ‘what happened’). You are free to employ any of the methodologies and/or frameworks we have studied to frame your analysis/argument, including manifestations of elite and popular belief in these cases, interpretations or explorations of gender, or an analysis of the influence of different authorities in the Weir trials.

Regardless of which approach you take, your essay should demonstrate a familiarity with the political, religious, and social context of this trial. The 1670s in Scotland were very different from the 1640s, for example, so you should be taking this different context into account when writing your final paper. Be sure to include not only the information that supports your interpretation of the events, but also to acknowledge or explain the elements of the trial that seem to refute your arguments.

It is expected you will draw upon both primary and secondary sources from across the course to support your argument. In this course, several primary sources have been used in our discussion of the witch trials, and it is expected that you will bring in evidence from these other sources, as well as the readings and articles from other units, in order to corroborate your position in this assignment.

NOTE: You do not need to use any outside sources for your research for this essay. The sources provided in this course are sufficient to fulfill the terms of the assignment. Here are some questions you might consider .

You don’t need to answer all these questions in your paper, but you can use these as starting points as you decide how to focus your research and argument.


What was the political, social, and religious context of these trials?

How do the Weirs specifically fit into this context? What were the roles of religious elites in these trials?

How else might religion have played a role here?

How might these records be used to tell us more about gender and the roles of men and women during this time?

Are there any differences between the testimony and charges laid against Jane and Thomas?


And how useful are these records as sources about early modern gender?

Think about how the stereotypes of witchcraft we discussed in Units 04 and 05.

Do the Weirs fit these stereotypes?

Why or why not, and how might this have played a role in their trials?

What kinds of pressures were involved in the Weir trials?

Were these events a concern of local or state authority?

Which played the greater role?

What kinds of popular and elite beliefs can you see reflected in these trials?

Which beliefs appear more prominent in these sources?

Why do you think that might be and what can this tell us about this case?

Compare the records of the Weir trials to the confessions of Issobel Gowdie.

How are they different?

How are they similar?

How useful are these sources in discussions of witch beliefs, and what can they tell us about early modern society as a whole?

Formatting The essay should be between 2,500 and 3,000 words . Essays that are over or under the word limit by more than 10% will be penalized. Essays should be double-spaced, and include a title page, footnotes, bibliography, and page numbers. Please follow Chicago Style for all citations.

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