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Yesterday evening I spoke on the theme ‘Demonological traditions and warfare in medieval and early modern Europe’ at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, which is part of the Defence Academy of the UK at Shrivenham, Wiltshire. The talk explored the origins of Christian demonology as we know it in the Albigensian Crusade of the thirteenth century, which focussed attention on how theologians dealt with the phenomenon of evil and inaugurated a flourishing of speculation about the nature of the Devil and demons. I then explored how the demonological discourse developed in response to the Cathar heresy was applied in the later Middle Ages to suspected sorcerers and ‘witches’, and how this discourse acquired a sectarian dimension in the religious wars of the Reformation period. Finally, the talk looked at the ongoing deployment of metaphors drawn from demonology in wartime propaganda. I discussed the phenomenon of demonisation as a form of dehumanisation in wartime, arguing that demonisation is a harmful temptation inherent both in human nature and in culture that impedes international relations.
This was my second talk at the JSCSC, where I spoke about the relationship between magic and warfare in January 2018.