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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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Avatar for KaliO KaliO said:
In a tiny town in Massachusetts, in the middle of the winter of 1691, two young girls began to suffer from strange fits. Their elders diagnosed the cause as witchcraft, and soon accusations of devil-worship were flying from neighbor to neighbor. All in all, 144 men and women were jailed. Of the fifty-four who confessed to practicing witchcraft, fourteen women and six men were put to death. Modern interpretations of the events include angst-y teenagers who got carried away, the accidental ingestion of hallucinogenic fungus in rye bread, and the actual practice of witchcraft. Noted historian Mary Beth Norton (whose 1997 book Founding Mothers and Fathers was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize) examines the events at Salem from the perspective of the people who were there at the time, without the benefit of modern hindsight. In the Devil’s Snare reveals new, relevant pieces of information. The residents of Essex County, Massachusetts, were engaged in a war that effected their actions every day. They called it the Second Indian War; today we call it (when we remember it) King William’s War. Either way, it engaged colonial settlers in a constant battle with the French, and with the Native Americans the French had recruited, for control of the frontier. Norton bases the hysteria of the witchcraft accusations firmly in the continuous stresses and losses caused by this war in the settlers’ backyards. She also notes that the Salem witch trials marked one of the very few and far between occasions where women were taken seriously. Seventeenth century women did not have the same rights that men had; women were the property of their fathers or husbands and were believed to be weaker, less intelligent, and more unstable than men. The trail judges (all men), then, had specific motives of their own for going against tradition and taking these feminine claims to heart. Norton’s exploration of these previously less-studied aspects sheds new light on the causes and outcomes of the Salem witch hunts. The result is a finely written, extensively researched, fresh, new version of this infamous chapter in American history.
posted Feb 19, 2010 at 6:58PM
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