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The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide

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Part of the enduring fascination of the Salem witch trials is the fact that, to date, no one theory has been able to fully explain the events that ravaged Salem in 1692. Countless causes, from ergot-infected rye to actual demonic posession, have been offered to explain why the accusations and erratic behavior of seven village girls left hundreds accused, over 20 dead, and the townspeople of eastern Massachusetts shaken. Through a multitude of resources, this authoritative source explores this tumultuous episode in early American history, including the religious and political climate of Puritan New England; the testimony and examinations given at the trials; the accusers and their relationships to the accused; major interpretations of the events, from the 17th century to the present day; and the aftermath of the trials and their impact on later generations. This jam-packed documentary and reference guide includes:

  • Five thematic essays exploring the event, including historical background, interpretations, and aftermath
  • biographical sketches of every major player involved in the trials, from ministers to afflicted girls
  • fifty primary document excerpts, including petitions, letters, and revealing trial testimony
  • a chronology of events
  • an annotated bibliography of print and nonprint sources for further research
  • a glossary of key names, terms, and language used at the trials
  • over 25 photos of depictions and historical sites A must-have for any student of American history, this resource gives a unique glimpse into the 17th century politics, religious culture, and gender issues that created the Salem witchcraft episode, and gives context to an impact that still resonates today, in everything from modern political life to popular culture.

    About the Author
    K. DAVID GOSS is Assistant Professor of History at Gordon College, specializing in American history and museum studies. His many published works include Cornerstones of Salem (2000) and Treasures of a Seaport Town (1998).
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