The Trial of Isobel Duff for Witchcraft, Inverness, 1662

Allan Kennedy (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    The document presented here is the formal proceedings for witchcraft against Isobel Duff, whose trial took place at Inverness on 17 July 1662. The record is preserved in Inverness’s manuscript burgh court books. 1 Duff was tried, as was usual in cases of witchcraft, under commission from the privy council, which had for this purpose appointed a judicial panel composed of local luminaries on 26 June. 2 Most of Scotland’s witch-prosecutions took place during intense, often interconnected ‘panics’ (as they were influentially termed by Christina Larner), generally lasting no more than a year or two before subsiding. While there is some debate as to what precisely is required before a spike in witch-hunting can be termed a ‘panic’, there is general agreement that Scotland experienced at least five of them between 1590 and 1662, and possibly others outside this chronological range. 3 Isobel Duff’s trial took place during the biggest of these witch-panics and, indeed, possibly the largest anywhere in early modern Britain or Ireland: the ‘great’ witch-hunt of 1661–2, during which more than 600 Scots were accused of witchcraft and perhaps around 250 executed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-122
    Number of pages14
    JournalScottish Historical Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


    • Scotland
    • Inverness
    • 17th century
    • witchcraft


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