Study the history of witchcraft in Scotland.

Join us online to uncover the facts about witch-hunting in Scotland and the Scottish witch trials.

In this course, you’ll learn in-depth about witchcraft in early modern Scotland. You’ll explore Scottish attitudes and approaches to magic, the preternatural and the supernatural, from 1590-1690.

With guidance and support from our Department of History, you’ll study:

  • Scottish witch hunts, including the North Berwick witch trials
  • 16th- and 17th-century Scottish witchcraft and its interplay with an emergent Protestant culture
  • fascinating primary and secondary texts, including King James VI’s Demonology.

Who is this online Scottish history course for?

This distance-learning course is for anyone, anywhere in the world, with a professional or personal interest in the history of Scottish witchcraft, witch hunting, and witch trials.

Build credits towards a Masters degree

This online course is part of:

You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards this MLitt qualification.

What you’ll study

In this online course, you’ll study the attitudes and approaches to magic, the preternatural, and the supernatural in early modern Scotland (1590-1690).

You’ll examine a number of inter-related themes, including:

  • the Scottish experience of, and reactions to, witchcraft
  • the role of women as practitioners of witchcraft
  • the attitudes of religious and secular leaders to demonic and non-demonic magic
  • the interplay of popular beliefs and practices with emerging Protestant theology and customs.

You’ll look in detail at important secondary texts in the historiographical debates in this area, and at major bodies of primary source documentation on the subject.

In particular, you’ll cover:

  • the North Berwick witch trials, and
  • King James VI’s Demonology.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to...

  • Evaluate historiographical interpretations of the impact of ‘the magical’ on early modern society.
  • Analyse and critique the historiographical debates surrounding the occult and magical in the early modern world.
  • Assess changes to views on magic and witchcraft in Scotland over time.
  • Discuss terms and categories associated with the occult in both their early modern context and modern-day historiographical usage.
  • Evaluate historiographical interpretations of witchcraft as a mechanism of social control.
  • Place witchcraft and magic in the broader context of popular beliefs and practices.
  • Engage in intellectual debate and constructive criticism through written assessments, discussions, and private study.
  • Evaluate primary and secondary sources.

Why study the Scottish witch hunts online with the University of Aberdeen?

How you’ll study

Online learning

Our distance learning Scottish Witch-Hunting course is delivered flexibly, 100% online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.

Your teaching

This course is taught at Masters level.

Your teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:

  • online lectures
  • videos
  • audio clips
  • reading materials
  • discussion boards with colleagues and tutors
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Your tutors

You’ll learn from Chair in History at the University of Aberdeen, Professor William G Naphy.

Your course coordinator

Where this will take you

Build your learning

You’ll earn 30 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. It’s one of several Scottish Heritage short courses that we offer online:

Towards a Masters degree

You can use the 30 Masters-level credits you’ll earn with this course towards our:


This course offers career-enhancing skills applicable in a range of professions, including teaching, tourism, and museum work.

You’ll gain transferrable skills in debate and constructive criticism through written presentations, interactive discussions, and private study.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for CPD hours. Talk to your employer or institute to find out more.

Free career support

Access our free careers service while you study.

  • 1:1 appointments
  • CV checks
  • Interview prep
  • Job opportunities

See how our careers service can help you.

Entry requirements

This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.

The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least:

  • a 2:2 (second-class) undergraduate degree
  • or relevant experience that supports this level of study.