The early modern period in Europe is often characterized as a period of reason when great strides were made in science and culture. However, it was also a period of religious intolerance and mass hysteria and this is exemplified in the witch-craze that occurred in Europe in the period from 1550-1700. At this time thousands of people were prosecuted and executed for the crimes of witchcraft or sorcery all over Europe. The origins of this Witch Craze are various and complex. This article will demonstrate that the origins of the craze were class, gender, social and religious conflicts. The prosecution of witches was related to specific problems in the historical period and that alleged witches were as often as not unfortunate scapegoats or the victims of powerful religious and political processes.
[[File:Witches one.jpg|200px|thumb|left|An drawing of witches from the 16th century]]
The Witchcraft Craze in Europe lasted from 1500-1700. The period because of religious changes became more interested in the devil and heresy. This led the elite in the Church to construct an idea of witches who were the servants of the devil and who plotted to kill and harm Christians. By 1500 sorcery was deemed to be heresy and the Church had become much more concerned about any deviant practices. Increasingly the customs and the practices of the semi-pagan rural dwellers was interpreted as witchcraft. This meant that they were extremely vulnerable to accusations of sorcery. The factors that promoted the Witch Craze included the growing Catholic and Protestant rivalry and the need to ensure the religious conformity of the population. Then there were the very real social tensions because of the endemic warfare, inflation, economic changes and social change. This created a situation where there was a need to control the population and witches were used to vent popular discontent and to serve as a warning to the poor not to become rebellious. Women were the chief victims of the Witchcraft Craze and this was due to social change where single women increased in numbers and this led to tensions and these were released in widespread charge of witchcraft against unmarried females. There was no one single reason for the hysteria that cost so many their lives rather it was often the interplay of the all the above factors.