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In the devil's snare : the Salem witchcraft crisis of 1692
Mary Beth Norton
Adult Nonfiction BF1575 .N67 2002

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In her splendid re-creation of the notorious events of 1692, Cornell historian Norton (her Founding Mothers and Fathers was a Pulitzer finalist) offers fresh and provocative insights into the much-studied Salem witchcraft trials. Using newly available materials from the trial records, letters and diaries, she argues that a complex of political, military and religious factors led to the outbreak of hysterical fits and other behavior that ended in the infamous trials. As Norton ably demonstrates, the settlers saw the First and Second Indian Wars and their resulting loss of prosperity as God's punishment for their sins. In April 1692, as these losses mounted, several teenage girls began having fits that they attributed to the devil, to witches and to Indians. The colonists thus found themselves, says Norton, being punished both by visible spirits (Indians) and invisible ones (the devil). In an unusual turn of events that Norton explores, the magistrates of the village took the testimony of these women who normally were not given any political or judicial authority at face value and began the trials. Moreover, as Norton shows, some judges used this opportunity of blaming witches to assuage their own guilt over their responsibility for political, economic and military mismanagement. Part of the originality of this study lies in Norton's refusal to read events through the lens of contemporary psychology, offering instead a lively account of the ways 17th-century men and women would have thought about them. Very simply, Norton's book is a first-rate narrative history of one of America's more sordid yet ever-fascinating tales. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

The Salem witchcraft hysteria that began in 1692 has for 300 years been the subject of much discussion, interpretation, and reinterpretation. Norton (Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American history, Cornell Univ.; Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society) offers a new explanation of this widely discussed episode, assigning central importance to fears caused by the Second Indian War. Norton's "dual narrative of war and witchcraft" examines the progress of threatening frontier disorders to a greater extent than other studies have, links them to the development of the crisis, and considers the thought not only of the panicked accusers but of the judges as well. Based on extensive research and offering a new analysis, this work is destined to become a classic in its crowded field and is recommended for academic and larger public libraries, even those that already own such other important studies as Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum's Salem Possessed or Carol F. Karlsen's The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England.-Theresa R. McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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