Salem witch trials, Boyer and Nissenbaum’s book.

I’m back in my home town of Brookline for the weekend, checking in on Mom and Dad and luxuriating in the cool crisp New England weather just before the foliage season hits its full glory.

A bit north of here is Salem, home of the infamous witch trials from the late 17th century.  As a Boston Globe editorial noted today, October is a particularly significant month for Salem locals, as it was during this month that the trials actually occurred.

During the summer of 1986 I took an American History class from Alan Galley, who since has gone on to become a Bancroft Award-winning history.  Boyer and Nissenbaum’s Salem Possessed was one of the texts we read for the course, along with Peter Wood’s Black Majority.

In Salem Possessed, the authors looked at the town’s social composition, arguing that the hysteria over witchcraft was partially explained by those aspects of its configuration.  It also talked about how Salem had changed in the two generations since its founding, losing its connection to its original Puritan charter.


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