From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—In order to give readers a broad foundation upon which to understand the social, historical, and psychological aspects of the trials, Goss provides a comprehensive examination of this intriguing subject, discussing the roots of the belief in witchcraft from the later Middle Ages through the 17th century, precedents in Britain and New England before 1692, and the Salem Witch trials from early 1692 through the end of May 1693 and beyond. In his well-balanced tome, the author includes interpretations of the trials from the earliest historians to late-20th-century analysis. An array of relevant and instructive black-and-white photos and illustrations enhances the text. Fifty court-related primary documents, selectively detailed biographies of key trial figures, an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an accurate chronology, glossary, and index are all appended. This meticulously researched book would work well as a supplement to Marilynne K. Roach's outstanding The Salem Witch Trials
(Cooper Square, 2002). Through the use of diaries, journals, and letters, Roach reconstructs daily life during the trials and examines historical details such as conflicts between church congregations and ministers and the origins of the hysteria in conflicts of the day.—Hillary Jan Donitz-Goldstein, formerly at New York Public Library
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Goss begins his analysis of the Salem trials with a chronology, then provides chapters on “The Origins of Puritan Belief in Witchcraft,” the accusations, early and contemporary interpretations, and the impact on subsequent generations. The volume concludes with biographies of 34 key figures; 52 primary documents, including arrest warrants and depositions; a glossary of 23 legal and cultural terms; and a source list divided into primary and secondary print works, two Web sites, and three films. A five-page index covers people, events, places, texts, and themes, including the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller, but not of Ann Petry or Elizabeth George Speare. Ostensibly comprehensive in its presentation of basic elements of the era, the volume omits the rumblings of misogyny in the trials of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer and overlooks contemporary feminist analysis of Puritan persecution of nurse-midwives and lone women, particularly elderly and widowed landowners. Nevertheless, the work deserves a place in public and college libraries. --Mary Ellen Snodgrass