The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy SchiffPulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff, author of the #1 bestseller Cleopatra, provides an electrifying, fresh view of the Salem witch trials.
The panic began early in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a ministers niece began to writhe and roar. It spread quickly, confounding the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, husbands accused wives, parents and children one another. It ended less than a year later, but not before nineteen men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.
Speaking loudly and emphatically, adolescent girls stood at the center of the crisis. Along with suffrage and Prohibition, the Salem witch trials represent one of the few moments when women played the central role in American history. Drawing masterfully on the archives, Stacy Schiff introduces us to the strains on a Puritan adolescents life and to the authorities whose delicate agendas were at risk. She illuminates the demands of a rigorous faith, the vulnerability of settlements adrift from the mother country, perched--at a politically tumultuous time--on the edge of what a visitor termed a remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody wilderness. With devastating clarity, the textures and tension of colonial life emerge; hidden patterns subtly, startlingly detach themselves from the darkness. Schiff brings early American anxieties to the fore to align them brilliantly with our own. In an era of religious provocations, crowdsourcing, and invisible enemies, this enthralling story makes more sense than ever.
The Witches is Schiffs riveting account of a seminal episode, a primal American mystery unveiled--in crackling detail and lyrical prose--by one of our most acclaimed historians.
History of the Salem Witch Trials
The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of , after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts, a special court convened in Salem to hear the cases; the first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged that June. By September , the hysteria had begun to abate and public opinion turned against the trials. Though the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against accused witches and granted indemnities to their families, bitterness lingered in the community, and the painful legacy of the Salem witch trials would endure for centuries. In addition, the harsh realities of life in the rural Puritan community of Salem Village present-day Danvers, Massachusetts at the time included the after-effects of a British war with France in the American colonies in , a recent smallpox epidemic, fears of attacks from neighboring Native American tribes and a longstanding rivalry with the more affluent community of Salem Town present-day Salem. In January , 9-year-old Elizabeth Betty Parris and year-old Abigail Williams the daughter and niece of Samuel Parris, minister of Salem Village began having fits, including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming.
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Here are 42 wicked facts about the Salem witch trials. Just when did the Salem witch trials take place in the timeline of American history? They began in , a full 73 years before the start of the American Revolution and some 40 years before George Washington was even born. When all was said and done, 25 people lost their lives because of the trials. Two of the casualties were babies.
Add in the numerous films and television series that reference Salem, and things get even more distorted.
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