The Night Battles and Peasants of Early Modern Europe
The Night Battles
Composing of most of the European population in the 1500’s and 1600’s, peasants played an important role in the development of Europe. In his book The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg gives a unique perspective on the lives of Friulian peasants through the analysis of inquisitorial records. During the inquisitions, peasants were categorized as witches or benandanti, which literally means well-farer. “The benandanti were a small group of men and women, who because they were born with a caul, were regarded as professional antiwitches. They told inquisitors that, in dreams, they fought ritual battles against witches and wizards to protect their villages and harvests from harm.” (Ginzburg. Back Cover) Although the lives of the
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Furthermore, Ginzburg asserts the fact that because of his remark, Pellizzaro was suspected of Lutheranism. As Lutheranism was slowly growing during the reformation, Martin Luther made a specific effort to get the support of German peasants. He accomplished this by writing directly to them in his third treatise, “On Christian Freedom” where he leads peasants to believe Lutheranism will lift their oppression. Similarly, Ginzburg asserts that the theological opinions of the inquisitors are what transformed benandanti from “well-farers” to witches. As more cases were tried, the inquisitors found the ideas of the benandanti strange and heretical as they were trying to maintain orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. Slowly, through suggestive questioning and pressure, the inquisitors changed the essence of the benandanti into that of a witch. The lack of education made peasants scared and weak compared to the inquisitors, allowing them to be manipulated and convinced of their own guilt. Although the reasons for manipulating ordinary peasants and Friulian peasants differed, both motives were successful, with the lack of education playing a tremendous role.
There are not many differences between the peasants seen in Carlo Ginzburg’s The Night Battles, and the peasants studied in the early