At the start of my article about the end of the witch trials, I state that the last execution took place in 1782 in Glarus, Switzerland. This fact appears in almost everything ever written about the trials but I previously knew nothing specific about the event. The other day, the BBC aired a programme on Radio 4 about this final executed 'witch' (with an accompanying article here). She was called Anna Goeldi and her story is one of jealousy and class-politics rather than witchcraft. Her confession, extracted under torture, was a succession of cliches which should have convinced no one. But influential people wanted her dead. Today, there is a campaign for her to be officially acquitted or pardoned, which the authorities are resisting, as authorities do. I think this is a mistake. Not long ago, after decades of prevarication, the British Government issued a blanket pardon for all the deserters executed during the First World War. This was a humane act and I don't see why the authorities in Glarus feel it is worth defending a conviction for witchcraft.
A few posts ago, I asked why there are no right-wing conspiracies. I was put in my place by the comments, but it has also occurred to me that the witch craze, originating in learned books by theologians, was the ultimate conservative conspiracy and one of the most damaging.
Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.