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Tens of thousands of people across Europe have been accused and tried for witchcraft across the centuries, as this month’s Essential Guide explores

The history of witchcraft is a dark one, filled with persecution and terror; an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 accused witches were executed across Europe between 1427 and 1782. It is a story of witch-hunters and paranoia, torture and trials, as well as fantastical tales of witches’ sabbaths and pacts with the Devil. In this month’s Essential Guide, we’ve enlisted the help of expert Professor Owen Davies to explore how and why people were accused of witchcraft, and find out what happened to those who were found guilty. Start reading from page 28.

Elsewhere, we examine the life and career of 19th-century artist Sarah Biffin, a woman born without legs and arms who taught herself to paint and sew with her mouth. So great was her talent that she was even employed by the likes of Queen Victoria. Discover her remarkable story from page 59.

Also this month, we investigate an audacious act of subterfuge from World War I, which saw the creation of a sham Paris to confuse German war planes attempting to bomb the French capital (page 66), and analyse one of Vincent van Gogh’s last self-portraits, painted in the wake of the mental health crisis that saw him mutilate his own ear (page 64).

Plus, we look at medieval Scotland’s fight for independence (page 21), and revisit the Kinder Scout trespass of 1932, 90 years after the event (page 16).

See you next month!

Charlotte Hodgman Editor


37 The height, in inches, of renowned artist Sarah

Biffin (1784–1850), who painted miniatures using her mouth

178 The number of witchcraft trials known to have taken place in

Edinburgh between

1563 and 1736

2060 The year in which Isaac Newton predicted that the world would end, based on a biblical interpretation

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