ELITES, WEATHER SHOCKS, AND WITCHCRAFT TRIALS IN SCOTLAND
Cornelius Christian ()
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Cornelius Christian: Department of Economics, Brock University
No 1704, Working Papers from Brock University, Department of Economics
I find that favourable temperatures predict more witchcraft trials in Early Mod- ern Scotland (1563-1727), a largely agricultural economy. During this time, witchcraft was a secular crime, and it was incumbent on local elites to commit resources to trying witches. My main empirical specification survives various robustness checks, including accounting for outliers. Turning to mechanisms, I find that positive price shocks to export-heavy, taxable goods predict more witch trials, while price shocks to Scotlandâ€™s main subsistence commod- ity, oats, do not. This is consistent with the explanation that as elite income increased, more resources were devoted to witchcraft prosecutions; I cite anecdotal evidence that a different proceeding, sexual trials in Aberdeen, experienced a similar trend.
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