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Dr Will PooleyMST(Oxon), MA, DPhil(Oxon), BA(Oxon)

Lecturer in 19th/20th Century Western European History

Will Pooley

Dr Will PooleyMST(Oxon), MA, DPhil(Oxon), BA(Oxon)

Lecturer in 19th/20th Century Western European History

Member of

External positions

Web Editor, The Society for the Study of French History

1 Jul 2015 → …

Research interests

I am a social and cultural historian of popular culture and folklore in France since 1789. My interests include witchcraft, magic, and the Occult, including their connections to the history of science and medicine, as well as gender and family history, rural history, crime history, anthropology, and environmental change.

I am the website editor for the Society for the Study of French History and blog regularly on my research here. I have held fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research and Utah State University, and taught at the University of Oxford and Utah State University.

My first book, provisionally entitled The Bloodstained Sand: Body and Landscape in Nineteenth-Century France explores environmental change from below. Drawing on the extensive manuscripts of the Gascon folklorist Félix Arnaudin, the book asks what roles rural labourers, artisans, and shepherds played in one of the most dramatic environmental changes of the nineteenth century: the forestation of the Landes de Gascogne. The book argues for a new understanding of the ‘modernization’ of the countryside in this period, which gives ordinary people a central role as the agents – sometimes unwitting or unwilling – of change, as well as the victims of progress. I am currently researching witchcraft in France 1791-1940. Although witchcraft was effectively decriminalized in 1682, conflicts over sorcery not only continued into the eighteenth century, but beyond the Revolution of 1789, and across the whole nineteenth century. French newspapers reported hundreds of criminal trials involving witchcraft in this period. Many were trials of ‘witches’ for fraud, or illegal medical practices, but there were also at least 50 murder trials where the motive was suspicion of witchcraft. Where does this ‘modern’ witchcraft fit into the accepted narratives of the long nineteenth century? My project is particularly concerned with the connections between new medical, legal, psychological, scientific, and para-scientific ideas and the witches. Far from stamping out ‘superstition’, the spread of literacy and new ideas gave witchcraft wider resonances, intensifying and legitimating modern social conflicts.



Office: 2.4, 26-7 St Michael’s Park

Phone: +44 (0) 117 33

Twitter: @willpooley

Consultation hours

Research Supervision

I welcome enquiries about postgraduate work on any topic in nineteenth-century French history, and would be especially interested to hear from students who want to work on criminal justice, modern witchcraft, folklore, or the Occult. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss your research plans.


I teach undergraduate courses on topics including the long history of witchcraft, science and the supernatural in the long nineteenth century, crime and punishment 1791-1914, and Napoleon.

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Postal address:
13-15 Woodland Road
United Kingdom