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Salem witch trials - Book Report/Review Example

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Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 A Book Review Introduction Mary Beth Norton was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1943. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1964, her M.A. from Harvard University in 1965, and her Ph.D…
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Salem witch trials

Download file to see previous pages... (Norton, 2003, A Note about the Author). Her work as an editor includes Major Problems in American Women’s History, with Ruth Alexander, The AHA Guide to Historical Literature, and Women of America: A History, with Carol Berkin, etc. In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 is considered a unique account of the events in Salem, Massachusetts, from mid-January 1692 to September 1693, which had led to over 20 deaths of men, women and even infants (Norton, 2003). Having described the horrifying situation from a seventeenth-century perspective, Norton not only expounds on the accusers, the accused, the judges and the critical turning points, but also moves beyond the immediate vicinity of Salem and takes the events up against the background of the Indian wars on the Maine frontier in the last quarter of the seventeenth century (McCullough, 2003). In the Devil’s Snare is widely acclaimed as a compelling study of the Salem witchcraft crisis, a nuanced piece of archival research, as well as a landmark achievement and standard-bearer for American history (Aronson, Brown, Winner, 2003). Summary The introductory section of In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 begins with Norton’s explanation of her motives in writing the book. In Norton’s own words, “few other incidents in the seventeenth-century Anglo-American colonies have been so intensively studied by historians. And yet much of the complicated Salem story remains untold” (Norton, 2003, p.3). The brief summary of the events that took place between mid-January 1692, or 1691 – according to the Old Style (Julian) calendar, which had been in use in the British colonies until 1752 – and the first week of September 1963/2 exhibits the brute facts of the crisis – a legal action had been brought against “at least 144 people”, mostly women, and resulted in the hanging of 14 women and 5 men, one man being pressed to death by heavy stones, and the deaths in custody of three more women and a man, “along with several infants” (Norton, 2003, p.4). As Norton points out, the crisis began with the visions of “two little girls living in the household of the Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village” of ghostly specters that caused them to suffer from fits, and gathered momentum during the next months with a growing number of accusers claiming “to be tortured by the apparitions of witches” and to have seen “the ghosts of dead people charging the witches with killing them” (Norton, 2003, p.3). Given the lack of obvious explanations for many events – whether sudden children’s deaths, mysterious ailments among the livestock, or strange noises being heard and ghostly visions seen – in the 1692 world, Norton considers it quite in the order of things that then New Englanders frequently blamed the supernatural forces, more often than not a malevolent witch, for their troubles (2003, p.6). Not surprisingly, there were many precedents in both New England and the mother country, such as the Hartford witchcraft incident in the early 1660s, the stories of Elizabeth Knapp (the late fall and early winter of 1671-1672) and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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