7

In the Harry Potter series, the world's history is largely based upon our own, with the idea that there's this secret magic world that exists alongside our familiar real world. In our history, people were burned (or worse) for being witches.

Did this also occur in the history of the Harry Potter universe? If so, does this then hold a special significance to magical peoples? Like is it treated like the Holocaust or slavery is in our world, as a dark time in history for magical peoples?

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    I remember reading in one of the books that witch burning was considered a joke by wizards/witches since they just cast an anti-flame charm on themselves and pretended to be in pain. – calccrypto Jul 11 '14 at 4:31
9

In addition to the Bagshot's rather comedic account and information about Wendelin the Weird and Flame Freezing Charms, we also have the following information from Dumbledore's "notes" on The Tales of Beedle The Bard

"As the witch-hunts grew ever fiercer, wizarding families began to live double lives, using charms of concealment to protect themselves and their families. By the seventeenth century, any witch or wizard who chose to fraternise with Muggles became suspect, even an outcast in his or her own community."

Albus Dumbledore's notes on The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.

From other information gleaned from notes in the book, it seems that ever since the early fifteenth century, the persecution of witches and wizards had worsened all over Europe, until it was at its peak by the seventeenth century.

This had the effect of making many in the wizarding community feel that offering to aid their Muggle neighbours with their magic was "tantamount to volunteering to fetch the firewood for one's own funeral pyre". It was easy enough for Witches and Wizards to escape their captivity and death sentences, if retaining possession of their wands (and skills such as Animagus skills)

However, a number of deaths did occur: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington (a wizard at the royal court in his lifetime, and in his death-time, ghost of Gryffindor Tower) was stripped of his wand before being locked in a dungeon, and was unable to magic himself out of his execution; and wizarding families were particularly prone to losing younger members, whose inability to control their own magic made them noticeable, and vulnerable, to Muggle witch-hunters.

Albus Dumbledore's notes on The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.

So it seems that that period did indeed have a negative significance to the Wizards, in particular, it was considered a period bad enough to lead to an International agreement to complete secrecy, an agreement that still governs almost every facet of their existence even almost 400 years after the burnings.

11

This was apparently mentioned in the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry had to write an essay for History of Magic. Although the following quote is from the HP wiki, it is a summary from the Prisoner of Azkaban:

Harry Potter wrote part of this essay on the night of 30 July, continuing on into his birthday the following morning. He consulted Bathilda Bagshot's A History of Magic for information on the subject, and incorporated Bagshot's account of wizards resisting burning using the Flame-Freezing Charm and the stories of Wendelin the Weird. After approximately an hour of writing, at which point it was one o'clock in the morning, Harry decided he was too tired to finish the essay and put it and his other supplies away under the loose floorboard in his room. Later that summer, Florean Fortescue, who was knowledable on the subject of medieval witch burning, helped Harry Potter finish this essay when he was lodged in the Leaky Cauldron for a few weeks in August 1993.

Also:

"Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises." —Bathilda Bagshot, A History of Magic

The persecutions was a major reason for the development of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, but I don't seem to remember any opinion mentioned by individuals.

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    Your final paragraph makes it sound like this was a terrible time for wizards/witches. Everything before that sounds like it was a minor inconvenience or a fun era of mocking muggles. – user1027 Jul 12 '14 at 15:55

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