Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts by Owen Davies

This book examines the social history of ghosts from the medieval period to the present. Belief in them has been manipulated for political and religious purposes, generated social panics and scandals, been a perennial source of literary inspiration and learned investigation. Underpinning Davies' approach is the awareness that for all the intellectual and scientific advances of the last five centuries the belief in ghosts continues to be vibrant and socially relevant. Understanding the history of ghosts helps explain why we continue to feel haunted by the people of the past.

'A general, accessible history of ghosts and ghosts beliefs is much-needed, particularly one like this which manages to be empathetic to the beliefs involved while rescuing the topic from the enthusiasts of the ghost-hunting fraternity. The quality of the writing is a major bonus: Davies wears his erudition lightly, and weaves it into accessible and often witty prose. This book manages the difficult feat of representing a real advance in scholarship, while appealing to a wider general readership. It's an admirable achievement.' - Peter Marshall, University of Warwick, UK

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