Constructing Witchcraft in Early Modern Denmark. Emotions, Gender and Crime

Name of applicant

Louise Nyholm Kallestrup


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 750,000



Type of grant

Monograph Fellowships


Belief in witchcraft was common both before and after the era of the witch trials, but fear of witchcraft resulted in its massive persecution and brutal punishment for only a relatively short period. In Denmark, it reached its peak during the reign of Christian IV. This project will argue that it was preceded by a process of construction during which witches went from being figures who fell under pro forma legislation to becoming, in the eyes of the country's rulers, the primary enemy of Christian society. The study is built around the thesis that witchcraft was constructed by means of a range of media in which gender and emotions, especially negative emotions, played an important role and in which Christian IV's notion of what constituted a 'good' Lutheran king were centre stage.


While the increase in persecution in Denmark between 1617-1622 has been relatively well-documented in the research, there still remains a 'blind spot' as regards the process that built up to it. In other words, we still lack substantive accounts of how witchcraft was constructed as a crime in Denmark and of the king's role in this process. The project offers not merely a study of Danish witchcraft persecution from an international perspective, but at least as importantly, an account of one of the most prominent kings in Danish history and of his perception of his office as Lutheran monarch.


The book will be based on studies of a whole range of sources such as legal documents, court records, theological texts and sermons, and images - all of which contribute to laying bare the traditions and events that play their part in forming and developing witchcraft as a crime. Consequently, the project will rely upon systematic studies of archives and libraries. The international dimension facilitates archive and workshop activities abroad, especially in Germany, Scotland, Norway and Australia. My ambition is to write a monograph about the case of Denmark and its position in the European context. The book is deliberately targeted at an international readership and will be published by an international publishing house.

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