Mollmann, Bradley J.
Master of Arts, Department of History, Miami University (2008)
In the 1590‘s a puritan minister named John Darrell performed a series of miraculous exorcisms in the English midlands. His actions were highly controversial, sparking a national debate over the nature of demonic possession and the appropriate methods of healing. Darrell believed that he had an orthodox approach to divine powers, but he was met with strong opposition. The Bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, thought that Darrell‘s exorcisms were an attempt to win converts to the puritan cause. Both sides worked feverishly to defend their ideas. They published multiple pamphlets, articulating their beliefs for or against the possibility of demonic possession. This thesis will examine these pamphlets in an attempt to ascertain the ways in which people understood the phenomena. It will focus on the question of identity, and John Darrell‘s attempt to legitimize his role as an exorcist within the Church of England.
Sometimes it takes a controversial event to bring mounting tensions into the open. Such was the case in the 1590‘s, when a minister named John Darrell performed a series of exorcisms in the English Midlands. His actions, and the ensuing controversy over their veracity, mark a shift in the way English people thought about themselves and their relationship to the divine. The events reveal a time when people began to question their basic assumptions about the world, and started to integrate a range of ideas to form new systems of belief. The various interpretations of Darrell‘s exorcisms show a point of convergence between purely religious explanations for events and an emerging scientific discourse that sought medical and naturalistic explanations. They reveal a fluid environment in which no single ideology or institution could accommodate all the emerging religious ideas, allowing individuals to combine ideas to form new identities. At the same time, the controversy over Darrell‘s exorcisms exemplify the ways in which various powerful entities attempted to manipulate the ―truth‖ of the events in order to perpetuate and enhance their ideological control.