A Storm of Witchcraft

A Storm of Witchcraft

The Salem Trials and the American Experience

Book - 2014
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"Beginning in January 1692, Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts witnessed the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in early America. Villagers--mainly young women--suffered from unseen torments that caused them to writhe, shriek, and contort their bodies, complaining of pins stuck into their flesh and of being haunted by specters. Believing that they suffered from assaults by an invisible spirit, the community began a hunt to track down those responsible for the demonic work. The resulting Salem Witch Trials, culminating in the execution of 19 villagers, persists as one of the most mysterious and fascinating events in American history. Historians have speculated on a web of possible causes for the witchcraft that stated in Salem and spread across the region-religious crisis, ergot poisoning, an encephalitis outbreak, frontier war hysteria--but most agree that there was no single factor. Rather, as Emerson Baker illustrates in this seminal new work, Salem was "a perfect storm": a unique convergence of conditions and events that produced something extraordinary throughout New England in 1692 and the following years, and which has haunted us ever since. Baker shows how a range of factors in the Bay colony in the 1690s, including a new charter and government, a lethal frontier war, and religious and political conflicts, set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. Engaging a range of perspectives, he looks at the key players in the outbreak--the accused witches and the people they allegedly bewitched, as well as the judges and government officials who prosecuted them--and wrestles with questions about why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did, and why it has become an enduring legacy." -- Amazon.com viewed on October 9, 2014.
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2014]
ISBN: 9780199890347
Branch Call Number: 345.744 BAK
Characteristics: xv, 398 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.


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Jul 13, 2018

If all you've read about the Salem Witchcraft Trials is 'The Crucible', this book will help you sort out the historical facts from the emotions that the play evoke. After reading this book, you won't see the phrase 'witch hunt' in quite the same way.

I feel this is a comprehensive examination of original source material. The author does a very good job of sorting through extraordinary amounts of documentation to distill the presentation to those facts that help the reader understand the probable motivations of the persons involved in this important, indeed formative, event in the history of what would become the United States of America.

The first three and the last chapters are very easy to follow. The intervening chapters can feel a little weighty with all the facts being presented, but those facts support the conclusions so that the last chapter doesn't just read as opinion.

Our book club gave this unanimous, enthusiastic, thumbs up.


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