Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft

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Harvard University Press, 1974 - History - 231 pages
4 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  - 9inchsnails - LibraryThing

Read for graduate Historiography. Honestly, the Salem Witch Trials have never been of historical or academic interest to me; I was surprised to enjoy this as much as I did. Well-researched and lively. Read full review

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


What Happened in 1692
Salem Village 1692
In Quest of Community 16391687
Afflicted Village 16881697
Town and Village 38
The Dynamics
Residential Pattern
The Porters and the Putnams
Putnams and Porters on Salem Town Board
A Story of
A Pilgrim in Bethlehem
Witchcraft and Social Identity
To the Eighteenth Century

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Backdoor to Eugenics
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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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