Bailey publishes new book about superstitions in late medieval Europe

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Michael D. Bailey, associate professor of history, has published a new book that explores the dichotomy between the “superstitious” Middle Ages and “rational” European modernity. “Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies – The Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe,” was recently published by Cornell University Press. This is Bailey’s fourth book.

“Superstition was actually a very broad term, covering much more than witchcraft or even magic in the medieval period,” he said of his research for the book. “I wanted to see what connections or developments would become apparent when I looked at the broadest possible category.”

In the book, Bailey explains that in medieval Europe, superstitions were serious offenses that were violations of essential precepts of Christian doctrine or immutable natural laws. In “Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies,” he explores the concept of superstition as it was understood and debated in the Middle Ages.

The hardcover book can be purchased at