This book is about the famous outbreak of witchcraft allegations and prosecutions associated with Christian Shaw, the so-called ‘Bargarran Impostor’ in Renfrewshire, Scotland in the 1690s. Much of the material it comprises was written then, in particular, the pivotal publication: A True Narrative of the Sufferings and Relief of a Young Girle; Strangely molested by Evil spirits and their instruments in the West: With a preface and postscript containing Reflections on what is most Material or Curious either in the history or trial of the Seven Witches who were Condemn’d to be Execute in the country
There are similarities and links between this Renfrewshire case and the prior Salem case in New England in 1692. For instance, the sorts of fits that Christian Shaw and the other New England and Scottish alleged victims of witchcraft were said to have experienced are remarkably similar. Both cases involve children as alleged victims. Clergymen play important parts in both cases. The material presented here shows that the Salem case and the Renfrewshire one are better understood with reference to each other.
The core of this book was first published as A History of the Witches of Renfrewshire in 1809 and again in 1877 with additional material. This 3rd edition of A History of the Witches of Renfrewshire reprints the 2nd edition and contains, as well as additional material about the Salem case and about the Renfrewshire case, a new, comprehensive introduction to witchcraft in New England and in Scotland. Therein, it is shown that although they are of great interest in their own rights, the Salem and Renfrewshire cases were not typical ones and that witch-hunting in New England and in Scotland was not as irrational, unjust, cruel and unfair as it is commonly thought to have been.
Dr McLachlan is a Reader in the School of Law and Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University. He is the author of Social Justice, Human Rights and Public Policy (Humming Earth, 2005) and joint author of A Source-book of Scottish Witchcraft (The Grimsay Press, 2005). He is an elder in the Church of Scotland and worships at Paisley Abbey.