A refreshing view on the Salem Witchcraft Crisis in that Norton does not limit her scope to that of Salem Village. She widens the view to include Maine and reflects on how the Second Indian War may have been a differentiating factor in how the Salem crisis played out.
Almost everything Americans know about the Salem Witch Trials is from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," which is really about McCarthyism. I'm teaching the play to high school students and wanted to get a little more historical context. Norton's book is thoroughly researched, but also a little exhausting for the common reader. She admirably refrains from modern judgement, but I also would have liked a little more commentary. Still, it's an important book for anyone interested in this fascinating/terrifying period in our history, and I did learn the John Proctor, unlike the character in the play, was in his 60s.
I didn't so much read this as dip in and out of it. It's a meticulously researched book written by yet another descendant of an accused witch in Salem and its surrounding areas. Mary Beth Norton is an academic at Cornell (I think) and is also descended from some of the accusers and judges. (They were all pretty much intermarried; there weren't that many of them as they had only been in America for three or four generations in 1692.)
Norton addresses the existing theories for the cause of the hysteria, and adds one of her own: nearly everyone involved had some sort of connection with the Indian Wars of the time, which had resulted in slaughters and kidnappings to the north in Maine.
A good book for learning more about the historical context of this famous witch hunt.
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