Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Working Paper 11-2016
This paper examines the relationship between income and witch trials in early modern Europe. We start by using climate data to proxy for income levels. This builds on previous work by exploiting a far richer panel dataset covering 356 regions and 260 years, including both seasonal temperature and rainfall, as well as over 30,036 witch trials newly documented for this study. We find that a one degree temperature shock leads to a near quadrupling in witch trials in any given year. The second part looks at incomes more directly, and we find that different measures of income have different effects on witch trials. Furthermore, the impact may depend on the structure of the economy and how different stakeholder groups are affected. We also present evidence that the stage in the business cycle is important in predicting witch trials, with the bottom of the business cycle coinciding with a doubling of witch trials in England.