Professor Marion Gibson
Director of the Flexible Combined Honours
Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Director of the Flexible Combined Honours degree programme. My research is about witch trials in history from the Middle Ages to the present.
Recent books: Witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials (Simon and Schuster/Scribner, 2023) andThe Witches of St Osyth (Cambridge University Press, 2022).
I'm also the author of Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft (Routledge, 2017), Witchcraft: The Basics (Routledge, 2018), Imagining the Pagan Past: Gods and Goddesses in Literature and History since the Dark Ages. (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), Witchcraft Myths in American Culture (New York: Routledge, 2007). Possession, Puritanism and Print: Darrell, Harsnett, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Exorcism Controversy (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006), Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), with Garry Tregidga and Shelley Trower, Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Identity (London: and New York: Routledge, 2012) and with Jo Esra, The Arden Shakespeare Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Demonology (London: Arden/Bloomsbury, 2014). I am the editor of the Cambridge University Press series Elements in Magic.
My research is about the British and American history of the supernatural from prehistory to the present, focusing on witchcraft and magic. I've just finished a new book on 700 years of witch trials for Simon and Schuster (UK) and Scribner (US), Witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials (2023/2024).
In 2022 I published the first full history of the St Osyth witches of 1582 for Cambridge University Press.I also edit the CUP series Elements in Magic, which is designed to bring out short, punchy new contributions to the field of magical studies from historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, archaeologists, medical humanities scholars, geographers, scholars of religion worldwide and scholars of film, media and social media.
£153,021 Leverhulme grant 'England's Mass Witch Hunt' with post-doc researcher Dr Tabitha Stanmore
In 2019 I hosted Professor Jay Johnston (University of Sydney) for a series of VIAF events on magic, landscape and religion run with Professor Nicola Whyte (History, Exeter) and Dr Will Pooley (Bristol).
£1,500 EPSRC Bridging the Gaps Grant ‘When Psychiatry Meets Literature and Culture’ with Dr. Mark Harrison (Devon NHS Trust) 2011-12
£216,072 AHRC Large Research Grant (plus funded PhD studentship bringing the total to £252,000) with Dr. Garry Tregidga (History, Exeter) 2008-11
I'm interested in hearing from anyone who would like to work on the history or literatures of the supernatural, especially witchcraft and magic. I’m a supportive and enthusiastic supervisor who has been helping PhD students undertake their dream projects for 20 years. Send me an email and we can chat about your ideas...
Jo Ann Esra
Tweets at: https://twitter.com/witchesetc
External impact and engagement
I post as @witchesetc (Twitter) and @witchesetcinsta (Instagram). For media work see my "media" tab. My agent is Joanna Swainson at Hardman and Swainson.
Events: Chalke Valley History Festival (2 talks, main festival and schools festival), June 2023; book talk and signing, Treadwell's Books, Bloomsbury (June 2023), MCM ComicCon panel “Spellbound” with 4 creative writers, May 2023; RAMM “Witches” event with artist Lucy Stein, April 2023; in July 2022 I was a panellist in the “History of Witches and Witchcraft” event on the Standon Calling Festival talks programme. I participated in two AHRC “Being Human” events in 2015, ‘Modern Folk’ and ‘Magic from the Inquisition to Harry Potter’ and in “Certaine Wytches”, 2019, with the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (sic). I organised the ‘Mysticism, Myth, Nationalism’ conference in July 2010 with Shelley Trower and Garry Tregidga, including a public exhibition and a creative writers’ event. I have also delivered public talks at the Cornwall Centre, Lowender Peran Festival, the Historical Association, the Du Maurier Festival, for U3A, the National Trust, the Pagan Federation, London Geekfest, Harry Potter Society and Henrietta Barnett School history lectures series.
I'll be talking about and signing copies of Witchcraft: A History in 13 Trials at literary festivals in summer and autumn 2023 including Budleigh Salterton and Bury St Edmunds, Caterham School History Festival, and at bookshops including Topping and Co (Edinburgh), Far from the Madding Crowd (Linlithgow), Eastgate Books (Totnes) and The Ivybridge Bookshop (Invybridge, Devon) - more tbc.
Contribution to discipline
I have been an invited or keynote speaker at the following conferences: 'Narrating Witchcraft', Erfurt (2016), 'Hexerie und öffentlichkeit', Stuttgart (2015), 'Witches and demons', Tromsø (2015), Medieval and Early Modern Studies Association of Korea, Seoul (2011), ‘Witchcraft Act 1604’, Durham (2004), ‘Hatred’, Chicago (2000). In June I will be speaking at the ‘Narrating Witchcraft’ event (part of the ERC-funded ‘Lived Ancient Religion’ project) at the Max Weber Institute, Erfurt. Other papers: University of Wales, Swansea; the Strawberry Hill Conference; Wolfson College, Oxford; The Western Conference on British Studies, Denver, University of Sussex early modern seminar, Oxford Brookes speakers series, ‘Britain and the Sea’ conference, University of Plymouth, ‘Green Man’ conference, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Neo-Victorian Villainy’, University of York, ‘Regionalism and Representation’, University of Warwick.
I was ‘rapporteur’ for the ESRC on a project to create the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (2003). I was on the editorial committee of the Pickering and Chatto series English Witchcraft 1560-1736 (2003). I review and/or read submissions regularly: for Women’s History Review, Preternature, Renaissance Quarterly, Seventeenth Century Journal, Folklore, Social History, National Identities, Early Modern Literary Studies, The Historian, the British Society for Literature and Science website, Supernatural Studies, Modern Language Review, Acta Borealia, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Gramarye etc and read proposals and completed books for Routledge, Yale University Press, Boydell and Brewer, Continuum, Ashgate and other publishers.
I was Editor of the European Journal of American Culture until December 2009, and am on the editorial board of Revenant, a new peer-reviewed e-journal of supernatural studies. I organised the Mysticism, Myth, Nationalism conference in 2010.
Television and film
Witches, dir. Elizabeth Sankey, Ardimages/Montgomery Avenue (in development for MUBI 2023)
Sky History’s Britain’s Greatest Obsessions with Chris Packham (2022) https://www.history.co.uk/shows/britains-greatest-obsessions
“Halloween” on In the Loop with Christian Bryant, Newsy (2021) https://twitter.com/Newsy/status/1453898126943821824?s=20
Independent documentary for cinema and online release, Familiar Shapes (2021) https://www.familiarshapesthemovie.com/
BBC2’s Rick Stein’s Cornwall (2 episodes, 2020) https://www.rickstein.com/rick-steins-cornwall/
Windfall Films’ Mythical Beasts for the Discovery Science channel (2019) https://www.windfallfilms.com/show/11715/curse-of-the-living-dead.aspx
PBS’ Secrets of the Dead with Professor Alice Roberts (2019) https://www.tvinsider.com/762135/secrets-of-the-dead-king-arthurs-lost-kingdom-pbs/
BBC1’s The Big Questions with Nicky Campbell (series 9, episode 12, 2016) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b076zjns
Revealed: The King’s War on Witches (Channel 5/National Geographic, 2012) https://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=The_King%27s_War_On_Witches
Tony Robinson’s Gods and Monsters (Channel 4/National Geographic, 2011) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1997202/
BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week “Power, Violence and Witches” with Kirsty Wark (2023) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001hwyw
Times Radio, Jane Garvey and Fi Glover (2023)
BBC Radio Essex with Sadie Nine (2023)
BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Weekend Woman’s Hour (2022) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0013h9j
BBC Radio 4’s Open Book with Mariella Frostrup, Siri Hustvedt and Stacey Halls (2019)
BBC World Service’s The Why Factor “Witches” (2017) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvtc0
Radio 4’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (2015) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qykl/topics/Salem_witch_trials The Salem episode with my contribution appears in Melvyn Bragg and Simon Tillotson’s In Our Time companion (Simon and Schuster, October 2018).
Radio 4’s Open Book with Mariella Frostrup and Patrick Gale (2013) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b038bpn6
BBC World Service’s Exorcism (2004) http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1512_exorcism/index.shtml
BBC Radio 4’s Through the Courts with Clive Anderson (2001)
I have appeared on news and chat programmes on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Drive show, Radio Devon, Radio Cornwall, Radio Scotland, Three Counties Radio and ABC Australian radio’s Late Night Live.
Podcasts and blogs
Not Just the Tudors with Suzannah Lipscomb (2023) https://access.historyhit.com/not-just-the-tudors
Leaf and Elfie’s Curious Talks, “The History of Witchcraft” (2023) https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/leaf-elfie-curious-talks/id1516771826?i=1000596565288
Shot and Chaser, Somethin’ Else/Spotify 242 “What Happens During an Exorcism?” (2022) https://open.spotify.com/episode/0vnCWutsxXYYEPZLO6LVGL?si=zJIDRuKpTjClLivPdXyW2w
The Newcastle Witches, Candle and Bell 8 “How to Build a Witch” (January 2023) https://anchor.fm/the-newcastle-witches
Thou Shalt Not Suffer, “The Witches of St Osyth” (December 2022)
BBC History Extra “Witch Hunters” (2022) https://www.historyextra.com/period/stuart/witch-hunters-podcast-marion-gibson/
Shot and Chaser, Somethin’ Else/Spotify “The Salem Witch Trials” (2022) https://open.spotify.com/episode/0MeDfYzB4doN9JHcgaLinK
Witches of Scotland podcast 51 (2022): https://www.witchesofscotland.com/podcast/episode/1de761f3/episode-51-professor-marion-gibson
The Piskie Trap, “The Bideford Witches” (2022) https://shows.acast.com/the-piskie-trap/episodes/the-bideford-witches
Ciaran Sneddon, Mysteries of Science “Witches, werewolves and vampires” (2021) https://podcasts.apple.com/in/podcast/mysteries-of-science/id1559723564
Mark Norman, The Folklore Podcast (2019) https://www.blubrry.com/thefolklorepodcast/
Peter Meinertzhagen, Sublime Horror (2018) https://www.sublimehorror.com/2018/12/
James Watts, A Podded History of Devon (2018) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06tydrl
Cassidy Cash, That Shakespeare Life (2018) http://www.cassidycash.com/ep28/
BFM Malaysia Radio’s Evening Edition podcast Happily Ever After (2017) https://www.bfm.my/happily-ever-after-12-the-magic-of-fairy-tales
"The Last British Woman Sent to Prison for Witchcraft - Only 80 Years Ago", The Daily Telgraph (14 June 2023)
Review of The Witches of St Osyth by David Aaronovitch, The Times (7 January 2023) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-witches-of-st-osyth-by-marion-gibson-review-0q7c6fh87
My work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Metro, The Telegraph, Archaeology, The Express and Echo, Evening Herald, Devon Life, The Catholic Herald, The Western Morning News, etc. Here’s a sample “Halloween” story: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/31/west-country-witches-witchcraft-witches-hanged
Articles and content
BBC History Magazine feature on the continuing relevance of witch trials, forthcoming 2023
Art Quarterly (Winter 2022)
Smithsonian Magazine article on ducking stools (2022) https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-authorities-dunked-outspoken-women-in-water-180980428/
BBC History Revealed magazine feature article “Rough injustice” (2022) https://pocketmags.com/history-revealed-magazine/april-2022/articles/1125243/rough-injustice
BBC History Magazine feature article “Witchfinders” (2022) https://www.historyextra.com/period/early-modern/witchfinding-witch-hunt-what-happened-why-methods-familiars-pricking-inquisition-matthew-hopkins/
BBC History Magazine review of Malcolm Gaskill, The Ruin of All Witches (February 2022)
BBC History Magazine review of John Callow, The Last Witches of England (November 2021)
BBC History Magazine “The Salem Witch Trials” (August 2021) https://www.pressreader.com/uk/bbc-history-magazine/20210805/281685437875600
Shepherd.com “The Best Books On Witchcraft in History” (October 2021) https://shepherd.com/best-books/witchcraft-in-history
All About History magazine (August 2020) https://pocketmags.com/au/all-about-history-magazine/issue-94/articles/798146/q-a-with-professor-marion-gibson
The Catholic Herald, Dominic Selwood: https://catholicherald.co.uk/englands-salem/
The Guardian, Rhiannon Cosslett: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/12/dark-charms-why-writers-are-spellbound-by-witches
The Huffington Post
The Witches of St Osyth is being developed as a play, on which I am historical consultant; I was historical consultant for the National Theatre production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (2022). I worked with RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter) on the Earthspells: Witches of the Anthropocene exhibition (2023). I was interviewed for the Stylus Media Group’s consumer trends report on contemporary spirituality in July 2017, which resulted in the Modern Mysticism report: https://www.stylus.com/nwczzp (behind paywall). I am regularly consulted by media researchers – e.g. a Radio 4 radio drama about witches, Ursula and Boy (2010), C4’s documentary The Pendle Witch Child (2010), a BBC One Show report on an archaeological site in Cornwall (2011), and the BBC’s documentary series The Real White Queen and her Rivals (2013).
I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My undergraduate teaching has included:
year 1: Success in Interdisciplinary Study, Foundations; Shakespeare and the History of Ideas; Reinventions year 2: Renaissance, Reformation and Rebellion; Interdisciplinary Research Project year 3: Dissertation; Interdisciplinary Dissertation, Indepenent Study. Masters: From Fairyland to Philippi.
I have often offered the popular optional module Witchcraft and Magic in Culture primarily to History and English students, and it is also open to geographers, law and politics students, and intercalating medical students.
I was born on the Isle of Wight and educated at Northwood Primary School, Somerton Middle School and Cowes High School.
PhD, University of Exeter, 1997
M.A., University of Birmingham, 1992
B.A. Hons. 1st class, University of Exeter, 1991