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Thou must not suffer a witch to live This single phrase justified the death of thousands of victims throughout Europe and North America Matthew Hopkins was an English witchfinder who was responsible for the ruthless persecution of scores of alleged witches during the witchcraft mania that swept parts of England under the PuritansBorn in c1621 Hopkins was a son of a minister and raised in Essex which had a long tradition persecuting witches Hopkins studied law and had a variety of careers before he hit upon the idea of establishing his career as a witchfinder in the Essex parish of Manningtree and Mistley around 1644 It must be noted that his timing was brilliant The Civil War was wreaking havoc on England and creating tension throughout Puritan society Anyone who suggested a reason for the nations trouble was going to get a hearingHopkins at the age of 24 made his first charge against a one-legged crone called Elizabeth Clarke claiming she was a member of a coven in the Manningtree area Clarke was arrested and questioned in Chelmsford As a result of her confessions roughly 31 other women were brought before the Assizes nineteen of whom were hanged This was the beginning of Hopkins reign of terrorAfter adopting the self-styled title of Witchfinder-General Hopkins acquired two assistants John Stearne and Mary Phillips who searched for the Devils Mark on the accused Apparently obsessed by his mission to obtain confessions of witchcraft the three began a tour of the eastern counties of England To those who questioned his qualifications for such work pointing out that he had never studied the subject he replied that his expertise issued from experience which though it be meanly esteemed of yet surest and safest way to judge by Such was the demand of his services that he made an extraordinary profit from his work considering that the average daily wages of the time was as little as 25 pence
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