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The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege Paperback – July 22, 2004
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Roach's new and exciting book is a marvelous compendium of well-thought-out insights, multiple facts, and little-known details on the events of the infamous 1692 Salem Village witchcraft. Her work, arranged in a day-by-day chronology, allows the reader to visualize how these events began and progressed to become the most massive witchcraft outbreak in America. It is an important addition to the literature of New England witchcraft. (Richard B. Trask, Danvers, Massachusetts Town Archivist)
[A] truly impressive day-by-day compendium on the course of the Salem witchcraft trials. This will be an invaluable aid to the scholarship on this pivotal episode in American history. (William T. La Moy, Editor Peabody Essex Museum Collections)
The most complete day-by-day account of the Salem witch trials ever written. [Roach has created] a fascinating chronicle of the witchcraft episode and its long aftermath, filled with revealing social and psychological detail, accurately and gracefully written. A compelling read. (Benjamin C. Ray, Director, Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive)
This fascinating, deeply researched day-by-day account of the events of 1692 to 1697 is an extraordinarily valuable resource for any student of the Salem witch trials. (Frances Hill, Author of A Delusion of Satan and editor of The Salem Witch Trials Reader)
What an accomplishment! Marilynne Roach tells the story with rare detail and deep understanding. Her scholarship and sensibility make The Salem Witch Trials an invaluable must-have for those interested in the trials and the times. Reading her work is almost like being there. Outstanding. (Alison D'Amario, director of education, Salem Witch Museum)
Monumental.... Roach's detailed reference book provides deep insights into the trial years by letting us listen to the voices of everyone involved. (Publishers Weekly)
Presents a detailed chronology of events from January 1, 1692, to January 14, 1697. Drawing on extensive sources, including some recently discovered manuscript material, it provides invaluable basic information in an accessible format that will aid those who are new to the Salem Witch Trials and those who many be revisiting them. (Library Journal)
The well-written text is formatted much like a diary of excerpted, paraphrased, and quoted documentation. (G. Wood, SUNY College at Cortland CHOICE)
Roach worked on this fascinating chronicle more than 25 years. She tells exactly what happened at the time, based on tons of documents and court testimony. (Denver Post)
Marilynne K. Roach's The Salem Witch Trials is representative of this ongoing interest: her "day-by-day chronicle" will find a place on the shelves of researchers and history buffs for whom the fascination of Salem never palls. (Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University Books and Culture)
About the Author
Marilynne K. Roach, author and illustrator of In the Days of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and former contributor to the Boston Globe, lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, near Boston.
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The Salem Witch incident is one of the most mysterious in the history of 17th century Protestant religion in both America and in Europe. There were cases of supposed witchcraft up to as recently as 1689 (Salem event occurred in 1692), but no similar incident involving this number of people ever happened anywhere else in Protestant Europe or America. The theories about the causes have centered around searching for scapegoats, perverse understanding of Christianity, and mass hysteria. The only one of those theories which have any semblence of credibility is the role of what we now call "hysteria". There are descriptions of symptoms of those affected, such as paralysis and blocking of the esophagus which are precisely described in Freud and Breuer's classic work on hysteria.
The author goes to great pains to avoid theorizing about any underlying causes of how the event started, how it came to an end, or most relevantly, why the outbreak was so virulent. She just presents the facts, largely as the people at that time actually saw them.
The conclusion one tends to draw is that this was a community in high anxiety from possible Indian attacks, with a government in disarray, and an economic slump due to the paralyzed government and squabbles. The accusations were largely done by young women, but they were investigated by civil authorities, not by clerical ones. All the trials were conducted by civil authorities, as were the judges and jury. The clerics were largely on the sidelines, trying with little success to warn that the evidence on which people were being accused and convicted was flawed. Worst of all, the leading cleric for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Increase Mather, the president of Harvard College, was in England when the events broke out. By the time he arrived it was difficult to rein them in.
There are many other excellent books on the subject, but this is the best reference for the details regarding the case, how it started, and why it developed the way it did. Even if you feel no need to read the book from cover to cover, it is a very good reference to consult as you read of events in other books.
The author then rolls out the meat of the story and shows how the most mundane thing started this runaway train of confusion that snowballed so fast, Salem was engulfed in the whole affair before anyone really understood what was happening. People never looked at anyone the same way after this. It was surprising and fascinating to learn that people actually took advantage of the "opportunity" to get revenge on others for the most minute reasons. This episode really highlights the frailty of the human animal.
The author also gives you a good look into the personalities of the people involved. You see them change as time goes on. They start with the concept that they know whats going on and how to resolve it. Then, just as quickly, you see them get lost in something that is incomprehensible to them and start to question everything they believe in. You realize early on that there is nothing unique or unusual about them. Their just like you and me and we probably wouldn't act much different were it us.
People used the Bible heavily throughout this time period as a way to combat the evils they believed existed. Whats interesting is that if you read carefully, the quotes used throughout the book mirror the events that are unfolding. These Biblical quotes seem to tell the story as it's unfolding before your eyes and you find yourself being an armchair QB, yelling at these people to follow their own ultra-religious views and all this evil would simply go away.
This book is very heavy in details. There is an immense amount of information; events, dates, places and names that cannot be read, digested and understood easily. For myself, I find that books of this nature should be read quickly, not bothering too much with the details. Wait a couple weeks, then go back and read it again. You'll understand it much better and the finer points will not seem so overwhelming. Kind of like building up a tolerance to information overload.
The book is truely fascinating and digs into many area's that make it a complete work. Geography (yes, it's more important than you make think), international & domestic politics, law and of course psychology just to name a few. Anyone interested in this type of history will not find many authors better at explaining reals events than Marilynne Roach. Another great thing is that everything she writes about can be reaserched independently and you can get caught up in this story very easily. Lot of late nights in the library.