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 started 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.
©2015 Emerson W. Baker (P)2014 Audible Inc.
This was a thoughtful and thorough look at the 1692-3 Salem Witch Trials and their impact on American History. The author pulled upon a wealth of previous scholarship and synthesized a highly readable book. The audible recording is excellent. As a Massachusetts native, I noticed some of the pronunciations of Towns were off - but the rest of the reading made up for that and a regular listener would probably not notice.
I could not keep up with all the names and dates! I was hoping for more of a description of what actually took place and more info about the people involved. i.e family life, how they were suspected.
I found this book enjoyable for the history of the witch trials but also the education of the areas around Salem. This touches on not just religion but politics, prejudices and hysteria. I found that rolling all of that that into the telling of the witch trials gave me a clearer picture as to what really did happen beyond the idea of accusers, accused, trials and hangings. The usual textbook information as I will call it. I enjoyed having a much broader view of this time period. Highly recommended.
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