Roper, Lyndal 1956–
Roper, Lyndal 1956–
Born May 28, 1956, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Education: Attended University of Melbourne.
Home— Oxford, England. Office— Faculty of History, Balliol College, Oxford University, George St., Oxford OX1 2RL, England. Agent— Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England. E-mail— [email protected]
(Editor, with Jim Obelkevich and Raphael Samuel)Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics, and Patriarchy, Routledge & Kegan Paul (New York, NY), 1987.
The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Religion in Early Modern Europe, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) R.W. Scribner,Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), preface by Thomas A. Brady, Jr., Brill (Boston, MA), 2001.
(Editor, with Daniel Pick)Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor, with Ruth Harris)The Art of Survival: Gender and History in Europe, 1450-2000: Essays in Honour of Olwen Hufton, Oxford Journals (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Past and Present.
Lyndal Roper is a historian whose who academic interests focus on early modern Britain and Europe. She has written a book on witchcraft in Germany from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries and has also published in the field of gender history and on the religious and social history of early modern Germany. In The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, Roper dismisses the myth that the rise of Protestantism improved the standing of women following the Reformation. Focusing on women in Augsburg, Germany, Roper instead argues that the Reformation actually made life worse for women as she explores their economic position in the household economy and how the idea of "civic righteousness" led to a "reform moralism" that negatively affected women in their role within the household. She also explores how civic leaders attacked sexual deviance and tried to control marriage and make women subordinate and inferior within the patriarchal urban household, where men wielded considerable influence because they controlled the craftsmen guilds.
"What makes her The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg … important is that she offers a bold and original view of the Reformation's appeal to German townspeople in the 1530s and 1540s," noted Thomas Robisheaux in the English Historical Review. Robisheaux added: "This superb monograph not only tells the story of women: it shows how central considerations of gender were to craftsmen, patricians and reformers."
Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Religion in Early Modern Europe provides a history of witchcraft, sexuality, and religion with segments of the book including previously published essays and articles. In her look at witchcraft, the author details many examples of women committing horrific acts as witches, such as the woman who strangled her baby because she said the Devil promised to marry her. She also takes a strong look at the psychology of the times and relates the populace's hysteria over witchcraft to Oedipus complexes harbored by accusers. Jeffrey A. Bowman, writing in the Journal of Social History, commented: "The collection as a whole offers a tantalizing glimpse of early modern society or, as Roper might prefer, of a handful of early modern psyches. One of the book's great strengths is Roper's ability to reconcile seemingly incompatible phenomena." Journal of Ecclesiastical History contributor Malcolm Gaskill wrote that the author "has produced a highly original work which is difficult to locate neatly within the existing literature."
Roper writes about the witch hunts in sixteenth-century southern Germany in Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. For her research for the book the author drew on numerous archives in Germany, including some that were housed in sixteenth-century burgher houses and the residencies of bishops. Roper details the mass panic that occurred in the territory of Wuerzburg, where more than a thousand people were executed. Writing on the Balliol College Web site, the author noted: "What interested me were the individual women themselves: witch trials, because they tend to go on for so long (it usually took about four to six interrogations to get a witch to confess) also produced some of the most extensive records we have of the words of ordinary people from that era."
Discussing the confessions that were contained in some of these archives and reported on by Roper,Guardian contributor Kathryn Hughes noted how many of the confessions were distinctly similar in their description of the women having sex with the devil and subsequently turning to witchcraft. Hughes noted that, according to Roper, the similar confessions "suggests … that a narrative of witchcraft had been unconsciously devised by all the interested parties—secular, religious, high and low—to suit the psychic and social needs of the community. Witches whose confessional accounts were lacking—the devil didn't appear in quite the right way, the details about baby killing were vague—were tortured again until they supplied all the required elements. Only once their stories fitted the template were they permitted the release of a public death."
The hysteria in Germany was so great that even the wives and widows of some of the area's most prominent citizens were executed as witches. According to Roper, it was not only a misogynistic church that led to these accusations and executions but also the citizens themselves, who likely had more culpability in the hysteria, with people turning in their neighbors as witches. Salon.com contributor Laura Miller pointed out: "Most of the complaints concerned pregnant women, infants, young children and lactating mothers who suffered from unexplained and sometimes fatal maladies. Such misfortunes were commonplace at a time when only half of all babies made it past their first birthday. If the mother or her family felt inclined to blame this on supernatural forces, the most likely culprit to single out would be an elderly woman who had some encounter—even a seemingly benevolent one—with mother or child.
In Witch Craze, Roper details the pursuit, interrogation, torture, and burning of witches as she examines the deeper psychology of witch hunting. Julian Goodare observed in the Canadian Journal of History: "This book thus not only answers many questions, but also raises more—an indication of the intellectual vitality of the topic and of the author's broad engagement with it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 2005, Alexandra Walsham, review of Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany, p. 1615.
Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2006, Julian Goodare, review of Witch Craze, p. 118.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, November, 2005, R.B. Barnes, review of Witch Craze, p. 562.
Church History, March, 2004, Eric Lund, review of Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), p. 209; June, 2007, Jeffrey Burton Russell, review of Witch Craze, p. 411.
Comparative Studies in Society and History, January, 1992, Thomas A. Brady, Jr., review of The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, p. 194.
Contemporary Review, March, 2005, review of Witch Craze, p. 187.
English Historical Review, January, 1990, John Kent, review of Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics, and Patriarchy, p. 275; July, 1993, Thomas Robisheaux, review of The Holy Household, p. 714.
European History Quarterly, April, 1991, Merry E. Wiesner, review of The Holy Household, p. 27.
German Quarterly, summer, 2005, Richard E. Schade, review of Witch Craze, p. 381.
Guardian(London, England), November 13, 2004, Kathryn Hughes, review of Witch Craze.
Historical Journal, March, 1999, Alexandra Walsham, "Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Colonization in the Early Modern World," p. 269.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, June, 1991, Michael Mullett, review of The Holy Household, p. 297; October, 1996, Richard MacKenney, review of Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and Religion in Early Modern Europe, p. 654.
History Today, September, 1990, Philip Broadhead, review of The Holy Household, p. 53; January, 2002, Daniel Snowman, "Daniel Snowman Meets the Historian of Witches and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe," p. 30; May, 2005, P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, review of Witch Craze, p. 70.
Journal of British Studies, July 1991, Albion M. Urdank, review of Disciplines of Faith, p. 333.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October, 1995, Malcolm Gaskill, review of Oedipus and the Devil, p. 721.
Journal of Modern History, December, 1993, Sherrin Marshall, review of The Holy Household, p. 887; December, 2006, William Monter, review of Witch Craze, p. 982.
Journal of Social History, summer, 1992, Thomas Max Safley, review of The Holy Household, p.891; spring, 1999, Jeffrey A. Bowman, review of Oedipus and the Devil, p. 740.
London Review of Books, November 4, 2004, review of Witch Craze, p. 12.
New Statesman, March 20, 1987, Alison Hennegan, review of Disciplines of Faith, p. 27.
New Statesman & Society, May 27, 1994, Peter Stanford, review of Oedipus and the Devil, p. 42.
New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006, John Demos, "Killed by the Panic," review of Witch Craze, p. 66.
Religion, April, 1989, Michael Mullett, review of Disciplines of Faith, p. 187.
Renaissance Quarterly, autumn, 2002, Noel L. Brann, review of Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), p. 1084; fall, 2005, Merry Wiesner-Hanks, review of Witch Craze, p. 1006.
Signs, autumn, 1994, Barbara Becker-Cantarino, review of The Holy Household, p. 152.
Sixteenth Century Journal, summer, 1991, Thomas A. Brady, Jr., review of The Holy Household, p. 361; summer, 1996, Raymond A. Mentzer, Jr., review of Oedipus and the Devil, p. 596; summer, 2005, Erik H.C. Midelfort, review of Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), p. 502.
Social History, May, 1991, Martha Howell, review of The Holy Household, p. 233.
Sociological Analysis, fall, 1989, Edward Bailey, review of Disciplines of Faith, p. 303.
Theological Studies, December, 2003, D. Jonathan Grieser, review of Religion and Culture in Germany (1400-1800), p. 847.
Times Literary Supplement, April 27, 1990, Margaret Aston, review of The Holy Household, p. 448; January 6, 1995, J.A. Sharpe, review of Oedipus and the Devil, p. 25; June 3, 2005, Alison Rowlands, "A Long Disenchantment: Witch Belief and Witch Persecution across the Centuries, and the World," p. 3.
Women's Studies, June, 2007, Jessica Ibarra, review of Witch Craze, p. 304.
Balliol College Web site,http://alumni.balliol.ox.ac.uk/ (November 5, 2007), faculty profile of Lyndal Roper.
Nthposition,http://www.nthposition.com/ (November 5, 2007), Mike Jay, review of Witch Craze.
Salon.com,http://salon.com/ (November 5, 2007), Laura Miller, "Who Burned the Witches?," review of Witch Craze.
University of Oxford History Department Web site,http://www.history.ox.ac.uk/ (November 5, 2007), faculty profile of Lyndal Roper.