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The Parlement of Paris was the largest secular court in Christendom. Although its criminal archives have been preserved virtually intact, historians of the period of the great witch trials, as well as scholars of the Ancien Regime in general, have been discouraged by the notorious difficulties of research into them, and have effectively avoided these records. Alfred Soman has undertaken this task. In the 15 articles included here he contends that criminal justice in the 16th- and 17th century France was far more humane and less severe than traditional assumptions would suggest. As early as 1588, the High Court began to take steps to restrain indiscriminate witch hunting, particularly in the eastern provinces where prosecutions were instigated not in conformity with, but in defence of, the highest judicial authority in the land.