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The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege

by Marilynne K. Roach

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Based on over twenty years of original archival research, this history unfolds a nearly day-by-day narrative of the Salem Witch Trials as the citizens of Salem experienced the outbreak of hysteria.


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This hefty tome packs in a lot about the day to day history of the Salem witchcraft trials, literally, as it tells in straightforward language what happened on particular dates over the period from the beginning of the accusations, with the events in Samuel Parris' vicarage, to 1695 when the New England community was still trying to come to terms with the outcome of the disaster and to make some reparations for it.

The book also includes a useful introductory essay which should be read beforehand to set the scene of the political infighting, the ongoing war with France which was resulting in a lot of disastrous raids by the Native American tribes who were French allies, the outbreaks of disease and the other stresses on the English colony. And there is an afterword which briefly talks about the subsequent views developed over the following centuries, that the trials were the result of land disputes/teenage hysteria/fakery and how the communities themselves either tried to downplay or to commercialise the events.

The main value of this book is that it provides a sanity check when you might be reading another account of the trials because you can dip into it to check what happened on various days and what the details were, rather than read it cover to cover as I did. It does become a bit heavy going if you read it right through because at the height of the accusations so many people are brought in, often inter-related, that it's possible to get a bit lost with who was who. There are some useful tables at the back, such as one listing the accused and what happened to each of them, plus some maps at the start. The only problem I found with those was that the maps didn't cover all the areas discussed.

The book attempts to give a context for why people behaved and thought as they did, and is written in a simple narrative style. All in all it forms a good background check for any of the many other books on this subject which sometimes veer off into anachronism and flights of fancy/speculation. This one doesn't; it is factual without being too dry in style. So it is a good reference book to the time and place in question. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
The witch scare and accusations went well beyond Salem Village to pervade New England; in less than two years, twenty people were put to death, and more than one hundred others were imprisoned. The Salem Witch Trials is based on over twenty-five years of original archival research (including the author's discovery of previously unknown documents), as well as on newly found cases and court records. From January 1692 to January 1697, this history unfolds a nearly day-by-day narrative of the crisis, while providing rich details of the communal, colonial, and international events that influenced the witch scare and trials. Illustrated with dozens of photos, drawings, and maps. This book would be recommended for high school. It can be used for history classes and to make timelines and English classes for reading, and for I thought that this book was better and more interesting than the one we were asked to read. ( )
  ydraughon | May 8, 2012 |
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Prologue: "On the eve of 1692, the causes and the catalysts that would ignite the Salem witchcraft trials lay scattered among hundreds of lives on two continents, smouldering unsuspected in the shadows of the human heart, could be discerned only by the omniscient eye of Providence -- or the Devil's restless attention."
p.588: "On Halloween, October 31, 2001, in a time when an astonished nation faced the possibility of continuing violent attacks and hidden diseases and plagues, when the appearance of long-concealed terrorists among the population sparked fearful reactions against supposed 'outsiders' who had nothing to do with the threat itself, and when all certainty had vanished from everyday life, Acting Governor Jane Swift signed the act to clear the names of the people executed for witchcraft in 1692. Descendants and supporters held an ecumenical service at Salem's First Church to honor the accused in June 9, 2002 (310 years after the hangings), to proclaim, as Paula Keene said of the resolve, "the true message of tragedy and hope that this event commemorates and deserves."
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History. Nonfiction. HTML:

Based on over twenty years of original archival research, this history unfolds a nearly day-by-day narrative of the Salem Witch Trials as the citizens of Salem experienced the outbreak of hysteria.


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