Malcolm Gaskill

Malcolm Gaskill, an emeritus professor in early modern history at UEA, wrote in the LRB about his decision to leave academia. His books include Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans and The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World.

In​ the summer of 1942, an Oxfordshire housewife began a series of brief encounters with a man who was not her husband. They met at a café in Birmingham and then in Banbury on the edge of the Cotswolds, where they strolled arm in arm, like lovers trying to forget the war. They had much in common: both were cultured Germans, refugees from the Nazis. But their secret meetings...

Short Cuts: Charity Refused

Malcolm Gaskill, 9 September 2021

Afew weeks ago,​ a man appeared in my front garden as I was trimming the hedge. Slight in stature, in his early twenties with short dark hair, he was wearing a huge hold-all as though it were a rucksack. His unsmiling face radiated intensity as he began his spiel: name, from the North, recent discharge from the army, trying to get back on his feet. He even gave his service number, as if old...

The world they sought to understand belonged to them all, and demanded that a gifted few should work together to interpret the writings of former ages. Alchemists resembled learned theologians poring over the gospels, wary of mangling a single meaning and so missing or misrepresenting a holy truth. And with alchemy, everything needed interpretation because everything was obscure.

At the House of Mr Frog: Puritanism

Malcolm Gaskill, 18 March 2021

Cartoonists​ find it as easy to draw puritans as they do Vikings. There’s an example on my pinboard. A behatted man, buttoned up in black, admires his wife’s sampler, which reads: ‘Way to Go, God.’ ‘Nice sentiment, Martha,’ he beams. Martha wears the same gloomy sub fusc, with black bonnet and broad linen collar. Putting slang in puritan mouths is fun...

Diary: On Quitting Academia

Malcolm Gaskill, 24 September 2020

InMay, I gave up my academic career after 27 years. A voluntary severance scheme had been announced in December, and I dithered about it until the pandemic enforced focus on a fuzzy dilemma. Already far from the sunlit uplands, universities would now, it seemed, descend into a dark tunnel. I swallowed hard, expressed an interest, hesitated, and then declared my intention to leave. A...

Mary Parsons revealed that she had chosen to marry her husband because she suspected him of practising witchcraft. She was arrested, watched closely during the night and grilled about her belief that...

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April 1944. Winston Churchill sent a memo to Herbert Morrison at the Home Office: Let me have a report on why the Witchcraft Act, 1735, was used in a modern Court of Justice. What was the cost...

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