Allegations of satanic child abuse became widespread in North America in the 1980s. Shortly afterwards, there were similar reports in Britain of sexual abuse, torture and murder, associated with worship of the Devil. Professor Jean La Fontaine, a senior British anthropologist, conducted a two year research project into these allegations, which found that they were without foundation. Her detailed analysis of a number of specific cases, and an extensive review of the literature, revealed no evidence of devil-worship. She concludes that the child witnesses come to believe that they are describing what actually happened to them, but that adults are manipulating the accusations. She draws parallels with classic instances of witchcraft accusations and witch-hunts in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, and shows that beneath the hysteria there is a social movement, which is fostered by a climate of social and economic insecurity. Persuasively argued, this is an authoritative and scholarly account of an emotive issue.
• Authoritative, well balanced account of an emotive, topical issue in an accessible writing style • First account of the phenomenon in Britain by an anthropologist • Based on actual cases of alleged satanic abuse of children • Provides historical comparisons with other social movements, extending its scope and appeal to a range of social scientists and historians
1. Introduction; 2. The personification of evil; 3. Witches, satanists and the occult; 4. The extent of the allegations; 5. The question of proof; 6. Explaining belief; 7. Children's stories; 8. Confessions and tales of horror; 9. A modern movement of witch-finders; 10. Aftermath and conclusions; Notes; References; Index.
'This modest book is an important contribution to the expanding grey area in which Sociology and Social Anthropology overlap … In general this book must be of very wide interest and it is an excellent demonstration of how valuable the theory and fieldwork of traditional Social Anthropology can be for a problem-oriented study of contemporary society.' Cambridge Anthropology