Matthew Hopkins

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Matthew Hopkins (c. 1620 – 12 August 1647) was a witch-hunter. His 3-year career began in 1645 during the time of the English Civil War and ended in 1647. Matthew and his colleague John Stearne were responsible for the rising number of witch hunts during that time. At the end, more people were hanged for being witches because of witch accusations than in the previous 100 years.[1][2] It is believed the number of deaths due to them was about 300 women.[3] His witchhunts mainly took place in the eastern counties of Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, and occasionally in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, and Huntingdonshire.

Very little is known of Matthew Hopkins before 1644. There are no documents from that time about him or his family.[4] He was born in Great Wenham, Suffolk.[5][6][7] His father, James Hopkins, was a Puritan clergyman in Suffolk.[7][8]

Hopkins wrote in his book The Discovery of Witches[9] that he "never travelled far... to gain his experience".[10]

In the early 1640s Hopkins moved to Manningtree, Essex near Colchester. According to tradition Hopkins used his inheritance[11] to establish himself as a gentleman and to buy the Thorn Inn in Mistley.[12]

From the way that he gave evidence in trials, Hopkins is thought to have been trained as a lawyer, but there is little evidence to prove this.

Matthew Hopkins died at his home in Manningtree, Essex, on 12 August 1647, probably of tuberculosis.

References[change | change source]

  1. Russell 1981: pp. 97–98
  2. Thomas 1971: p. 537, ... in Essex there were no executions after 1626 until 1645.
  3. Sharpe 2002, p. 3
  4. Cabell 2006: p. 9; it is the author's opinion that "unfortunately one cannot dispute that all Hopkins documentation was deliberately destroyed after his death".
  5. Gaskill 2005: p. 9
  6. Deacon 1976: p. 13
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sharpe, James (2004). "Hopkins, Matthew (d. 1647)". Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13751. Retrieved 18 October 2009. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. Deacon 1976: pp. 13, 17
  9. The Discovery of Witches – In Answer to Several Queries, Lately Delivered to the Judges of Assize for the County of Norfolk; London; 1674
  10. Cabell 2006: p. 15
  11. Gaskill 2005: p. 23
  12. Gaskill 2005: p. 27

Sources[change | change source]