Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft

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Harvard University Press, 1974 - History - 231 pages
3 Reviews
Tormented girls writhing in agony, stern judges meting out harsh verdicts, nineteen bodies swinging on Gallows Hill. The stark immediacy of what happened in 1692 has obscured the complex web of human passion which climaxed in the Salem witch trials From rich and varied sources—many neglected and unknown—Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum give us a picture of the people and events more intricate and more fascinating than any other in the massive literature. It is a story of powerful and deeply divided families and of a community determined to establish an independent identity—beset by restraints and opposition from without and factional conflicts from within—and a minister whose obsessions helped to bring this volatile mix to the flash point. Not simply a dramatic and isolated event, the Salem outbreak has wider implications for our understanding of developments central to the American experience: the disintegration of Puritanism, the pressures of land and population in New England towns, the problems besetting farmer and householder, the shifting role of the church, and the powerful impact of commercial capitalism.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - aliform - LibraryThing

An impressive book. Unlike most accounts of the trials, this takes social and political factors into consideration when explaining possible causes for the dramatic and tragic turn of events. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - heidilove - LibraryThing

my first book about the witchcraze in the colonies, boyer does a fine job of introducing the subject and the scenery. good for novice and scholar alike. Read full review

Contents

What Happened in 1692
1
Salem Village 1692
34
In Quest of Community 16391687
37
Afflicted Village 16881697
60
Town and Village 38
63
The Dynamics
80
Residential Pattern
84
Charts
99
The Porters and the Putnams
110
Putnams and Porters on Salem Town Board
130
A Story of
133
A Pilgrim in Bethlehem
153
Witchcraft and Social Identity
179
To the Eighteenth Century
217
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About the author (1974)

Paul Boyer was Merle Curti Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Stephen Nissenbaum is a cultural historian.

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