I’m not going to beat about the bush. I love history. It has always been a favourite subject of mine even from my earliest educational memory. I often find myself defending the subject when I hear people say the study of such a subject is pointless. Well they are wrong. The study of history is not about the pointless study of dates. History is the study of why things happened, when they did and very often the consequences of historical actions. We should learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, and history gives us that knowledge.
When you get your head around this form of science most things seem to make sense. All actions have a consequence and by understanding history you can see the fall-out before it happens.
History of history
The history of history is a subject within itself. The ancient Greeks considered the flow of time to be ‘linear’. In effect, they considered time to be a line of singular events that had no conception and no significance. However, historical theorists challenged this view and over time saw that history was circular. For example, an action creates a consequence, a consequence then requires an action and so on and so forth.
In fact, any event throughout the world can test this theory and I want to match this up with historical relevance today.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, England, Europe and America were racked with the fear and paranoia of witchcraft. The paranoia knew no bounds when it came to class or status. King James I was so paranoid about witchcraft that he wrote a book on how to identify witches (Daemonologie ) and the famous play, Macbeth, was written by Shakespeare to please a king’s lust for the eradication of witches. Names such as Salam, The Pendle Witches and Matthew Hopkins have now become synonymous with this period in time and illogical practices.
Witches were mainly the elderly or infirm within a village or town. These people were easy to target mainly because they were marginal, dependent members of the community and therefore more likely to arouse feelings of both hostility and guilt, and less likely to have defenders of importance inside the community.
By todays standards we would associate these people as having learning or physical difficulties. People with schizophrenia may also have come under this title as having visions or hearing voices could imply contact with the Devil.
For the state, witchcraft was a profitable enterprise. A witch, once arrested would be charged for their keep whilst incarcerated. They would then be charged for the trial and finally billed for their ultimate execution. It may be argued therefore, that the eradication of witch trials was slow because it was too profitable to stop.
It is at this point, I would like to delve deeper into the role of The Witchfinder General, or to be precise, Matthew Hopkins.
I would argue that Matthew Hopkins was an opportunist. To be specific he was an evil mastermind of nothing more that taking advantage of the disadvantaged in society to feed his own wicked and evil ends.
Matthew Hopkins (1620 – 1647) was responsible for more people being executed for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years. He was also solely responsible for the increase in witch trials during this period. According to a range of sources Matthew Hopkins is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 300 women between the years 1644 and 1646. For Matthew Hopkins, counter evidence or facts meant nothing in his quest to secure a conviction.
Although torture was unlawful in England, Matthew Hopkins often used techniques such as sleep deprivation to extract confessions from his victims. Another of his methods was the swimming test, based on the idea that as witches had renounced their baptism, water would reject them. Suspects were tied to a chair and thrown into water: all those who ‘swam’ (floated) were considered to be witches. Matthew Hopkins was warned against the use of “swimming” as it was found to be flawed but still he persisted with the ‘swim’ test. Hopkins also looked for the Devil’s mark, although in reality, it was usually a mole or birthmark. If the suspected witch had no such visible marks, invisible ones could be discovered by pricking. Matthew Hopkins, therefore, employed “witch prickers” who pricked the accused with knives and special needles, looking for such marks, normally after the suspect had been shaved of all body hair.
Use of flawed evidence to suit their own needs
With the back-ground I have given you it is possible to see that Matthew Hopkins was able to trick the authorities and in effect lie his way to secure a conviction and ultimately earn a living. For Matthew Hopkins money, status and reputation came before, integrity, honesty and the rule of law. And this is where I would like the reader to consider the circular actions of history.
History has repeated itself when it comes to witch hunting. Although it appears witch trials ended in the 18th century (although the last English witch trial was Helen Duncan in 1944) it has still managed to rear their ugly head from time to time.
The Communist Witch Trials were prevalent during the McCarthy period of the 1950s. Thousands of Americans who worked for the government, served in the army, worked in the movie industry, or came from various walks of life had to answer that question before a congressional panel.
“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist party?”
This was a direct reflection of those of whom were questioned during the Salam Witch Trials of 1692 when 14 women and 6 men were executed. During this trial each defendant was asked;
“Are you now, or have you ever been, a witch?”
Today we will be asked;
“Have you now, or have you ever been accused of a crime you did not commit?”
The new witch hunt
England, Europe and America it appears is in the grip of another witch hunt mania. However, a new Matthew Hopkins has been reincarnated, reformed and re-employed. We are aware of the underhanded tricks used to secure a conviction and the large amounts of money that were earned in the process of doing so. We have also learnt about the immoral practices used to secure what he required (or to get his own way) and here is where I would like to introduce the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK; Alison Saunders.
The new witch finder – Alison Saunders
To secure her own career Alison Saunders has driven hard the concept of ‘victim centred’ prosecutions. Like Matthew Hopkins she also considered herself to be untouchable and created evidence (by conveniently withholding evidence) to secure a list of wrongful convictions. All to secure her quest of witch hunting people of whom evidence could be doctored or editied to suit her own ends. To be balanced and fair, unlike Matthew Hopkins she has apologised (to only one of her victims – Liam Allen) but she too is guilty of sentencing 100s of innocent people based on dubious evidence and profiting from this manufactured misery.
Matthew Hopkins eventually ran into opposition. In Norfolk Hopkins was questioned by justices of the assizes, about the torturing and fees he operated on. Hopkins was asked if methods of investigation did not make the finders themselves witches, and if, with all of his knowledge, did he not also have a secret or perhaps actually too incompetent to carry out his duties correctly.
I think it is high time that Alison Saunders now faced questioning about her own actions to date. How could she consider the use of targets to secure prosecutions legitimate? How could she consider withholding evidence to be both morally and legally justifiable? What is it she has to hide as she is refusing to apologise or be open to questioning? And finally, is she actually competent to hold such a job?
Fall on your own sword
Historically societies have always sought scapegoats to hide their own failings and witch hunting has always been a useful tool to justify such actions. The police and CPS are no different. As always, the new witches are those of whom have been falsely accused of crimes and the instruments of torture is the hiding and selecting of evidence. This false accounting allows for inflated success figures for the police and CPS and so securing worthless and incompetent staff to continue working. For the cps to have any credibility Alison Saunders needs to leave before she is forced to go. The evidence shows beyond reasonable doubt her levels of corruption and dishonesty are too deep to be washed away. Therefore, her position is untenable. In the name of god, do the decent thing and just go. Otherwise you will be historically remembered as the new Matthew Hopkins and with all of the corruption and evils that he is associated with.