Edward Jorden has been hailed as one of the earliest champions of rational scepticism, a heroic figure who perceived that the symptoms his credulous contemporaries attributed to witchcraft were actually the effects of hysteria. His Briefe Discourse of a Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother (1603) is said to have reclaimed the demoniacally possessed for medicine and to have introduced the concept of hysteria into English psychiatry. The aim of this book is to reassess the reasons why Jorden wrote his famous pamphlet and to set it in its historical context. This book brings Jorden's pamphlet together with two works by Jorden's adversaries, John Swann's A True and Brief Report of Mary Glovers Vexation and Stephen Bradwell's 'Mary Glovers Late Woeful Case', which has never before been published. Both of these concern the incident that provoked Jorden's Briefe Discourse, and they show that his pamphlet was in fact prompted by a bitter religious and political controversy over the case. The introduction, by Michael MacDonald, carefully reconstructs the fascinating story of the bewitchment of Mary Glover, a fourteen-year-old London girl, and the intrigues that surrounded it.
MacDonald argues that the case was a turning-point in the decline of witchcraft in England, but less because of Jorden's scientific insights than because of its political importance. MacDonald thus provides a fresh and more realistic analysis of the politics of credulity and scepticism in early modern England and Jorden's part in them. The book also makes available for the first time a detailed description of the actual case on which his observations about hysteria were based and suggests the ways in which it shaped some of his innovative views. THIS IS FULL CONTRIBS