Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies
Riots, Rituals and Witch Hunts
Between the 14th and 18th centuries the peoples of Europe created a vigorous 'popular culture' expressed through ballads, festivals, rituals and riots. Eventually, in the 16th & 17th centuries elites attempted to reform and repress many of these popular practices. At their most extreme these efforts created the conditions for the great witch trials, in which the issues of elite power and popular culture converged?and clashed. Yet the recovery of this ?popular culture? has raised several theoretical controversies that still resonate today. Is it possible to distinguish between a 'popular' and an elite culture? Do the common folk produce their own culture or is it imposed on them from above? Why do elites seek to reform popular practices? How successful are such efforts?