Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692

Although many of the early settlers to the New World were attempting to escape religious persecution in Europe, they still brought some of the same thoughts with them. Among those beliefs were the ideas of witchcraft and using its powers to “get even” with those who crossed them. Those ideas culminated in the witch hunts and trials in Salem, Massachusetts.
Yet, that wasn’t the only place they occurred. Other towns held similar trials, albeit not on the scale of those in Salem.
One such place was Stamford, Connecticut, as related in this book by Richard Godbeer.
Godbeer studied actual documents and trial transcripts to learn the dynamics behind the witch hunts and relates those findings to the reader.
“Escaping Salem” is a fascinating book. In it, the reader learns that much of what was previously believed about the witch hunts is highly exaggerated. It wasn’t a mass execution as the judges were very careful not to take the accusations lightly. In fact, they did everything they could to sway the jury to find the plaintiffs innocent of the charges.
This author combines narrative and historical writing to relate the events to the reader. It’s very well written and the reader will come away with a clear sense of what actually transpired.
The book “Escaping Salem” is one of a series published by Oxford University Press titled “New Narratives in American History.” The series looks at certain events in the history of our country and presents them to the reader in a way that makes them easy to read and understandable.As a social scientist, history plays a big part in my interests and so I found this book quite informative. It was the first book I’ve read in the series and I plan to see what other topics are available.

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