Margaret Murray

Born Jul 13, 1863

Margaret Alice Murray was a prominent British Egyptologist and anthropologist. Primarily known for her work in Egyptology, which was "the core of her academic career," she is also known for her propagation of the Witch-cult hypothesis, the theory that the witch trials in the Early Modern period of Christianized Europe and North America were an attempt to extinguish a surviving pre-Christian, pagan religion devoted to a Horned God.… Read More

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1863 Birth Margaret Murray was born on 13 July 1863 in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, then a major military city in British India. … Read More
1870 7 Years Old In 1870, Margaret and her sister Mary were sent to Britain, there moving in with their uncle John, a vicar, and his wife Harriet at their home in Lambourn, Berkshire. … Read More
1873 10 Years Old In 1873, the girls' mother arrived in Europe and took them with her to Bonn in Germany, where they both became fluent in German. … Read More


1887 24 Years Old In 1887, she returned to England, moving to Rugby, Warwickshire, where her uncle John had moved, now widowed. … Read More
1891 28 Years Old When her father retired and moved to England, she moved into his house in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, living with him until his death in 1891.


1893 - 1894 2 More Events
1895 32 Years Old Murray soon got to know Petrie, becoming his copyist and illustrator and producing the drawings for the published report on his excavations at Qift, Koptos. In turn, he aided and encouraged her to write her first research paper, "The Descent of Property in the Early Periods of Egyptian History", which was published in the Proceedings of the Society for Biblical Archaeology in 1895. … Read More
1898 35 Years Old In 1898 she was appointed to the position of Junior Lecturer, responsible for teaching the linguistic courses at the Egyptology department; this made her the first female lecturer in archaeology in the United Kingdom. … Read More
1902 39 Years Old At this point, Murray had no experience in field archaeology, and so during the 1902–03 field season, she travelled to Egypt to join Petrie's excavations at Abydos. … Read More


1903 40 Years Old During the 1903–04 field season, Murray returned to Egypt, and at Petrie's instruction began her investigations at the Saqqara cemetery near to Cairo, which dated from the period of the Old Kingdom. … Read More
1905 42 Years Old 1 More Event
She published her findings in 1905 as Saqqara Mastabas I, although would not publish translations of the inscriptions until 1937 as Saqqara Mastabas II. … Read More
1911 48 Years Old From at least 1911 until his death in 1940, Murray was a close friend of the anthropologist Charles Gabriel Seligman of the London School of Economics, and together they co-authored a variety of papers on Egyptology that were aimed at an anthropological audience. … Read More


1916 53 Years Old It was at Seligman's recommendation that she was invited to become a member of the Institute in 1916. … Read More
1917 54 Years Old Murray's interest in folklore led her to develop an interest in the witch trials of Early Modern Europe. In 1917, she published a paper in Folklore, the journal of the Folklore Society, in which she first articulated her version of the witch-cult theory, arguing that the witches persecuted in European history were actually followers of "a definite religion with beliefs, ritual, and organization as highly developed as that of any cult in the end". … Read More
1921 58 Years Old 1 More Event
She articulated these views more fully in her 1921 book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, published by Oxford University Press after receiving a positive peer review by Henry Balfour, and which received both criticism and support on publication. … Read More


1924 61 Years Old In 1924, UCL promoted Murray – then aged sixty-two – to the position of assistant professor, and in 1927 she was awarded an honorary doctorate for her career in Egyptology. … Read More
1927 64 Years Old 1 More Event
Murray joined the Folklore Society in February 1927, and was elected to the society's council a month later, although stood down in 1929. … Read More
1933 70 Years Old In 1933, Petrie had retired from UCL and moved to Jerusalem in Mandatory Palestine with his wife; Murray therefore took over as editor of the Ancient Egypt journal, renaming it Ancient Egypt and the East to reflect its increasing research interest in the ancient societies that surrounded and interacted with Egypt.
The journal folded in 1935, perhaps due to Murray's retirement. … Read More
1937 - 1949 2 More Events
1953 90 Years Old 1 More Event
…  She served as President of the Folklore Society from 1953 to 1955, and published widely over the course of her career. … Read More
1954 - 1960 4 More Events
1961 98 Years Old For the autumn 1961 issue of Folklore, the society published a festschrift to Murray to commemorate her 98th birthday. … Read More
1962 99 Years Old Amid failing health, in 1962 Murray moved into the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, where she could receive 24-hour care; she lived here for the final 18 months of her life.
1963 100 Years Old 2 More Events
To mark her hundredth birthday, on 13 July 1963 a group of her friends, former students, and doctors gathered for a party at nearby Ayot St. Lawrence. … Read More
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