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By the spring of 1645, civil war had exacted a terrible toll on England. Disease, hunger, anxiety and lawlessness were rife, and belief in the supernatural was commonplace. In Essex, two gentlemen began interrogating women suspected of witchcraft. This study charts the grisly careers of ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, and reveals how religious bigotry and the superstitious fears of ordinary people unleashed the most brutal witch-hunt in English history.