- Series: Pivotal Moments in American History
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 6, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019989034X
- ISBN-13: 978-0199890347
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience (Pivotal Moments in American History) 1st Edition
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"This is a necessary book for all of those who seek to find a balanced way to approach the time period, as the scale on which it is written provides an insight not only into the trials themselves, but into the lives of the turbulent and diverse populations that inhabited the American colonies."--Jeff Senger, Nova Religio
"His rock solid historical work and lively, engaging prose made this book both an indispensable contribution to scholarship and a delight to read. I suspect that this is the book on Salem witchcraft for this generation." --Scott D. Seay, Christian Theological Seminary
"...[A] cogent, readable, and comprehensive analysis of the literature on the Salem witch trials.... His emphasis on the choices made by individuals - to take action or remain passive - makes this work a welcome addition to our attempts to understand the significance of the Salem events of 1692." --Journal of American History
"Of many books about the Salem witch-trials, only a few really matter. This is one of them. Combining deep learning and clear-sighted good sense, A Storm of Witchcraft retells a story that has long managed to be familiar yet puzzling and misunderstood. Emerson Baker's masterly dissection of events is both genuinely original and utterly persuasive, not least because the importance of political circumstance, legal expediency and personal relationships seems obvious once it is pointed out. Baker reminds us that witchcraft was above all a religious crime, which took on terrifying significance at a time of extreme danger in New England's history. But his analysis of Salem's causal roots and painfully enduring ramifications does more than just demystify the trials: it illustrates universal truths about human emotions and their place in modern society." --Malcolm Gaskill, author of Witchfinders: a Seventeenth Century English Tragedy
"Baker, professor of history at Salem State College, places the trials in the larger context of American and English history, examining not only their prominent place in our collective memory, but also what made them so different from other witch trials of the era. Baker convincingly demonstrates that the trials were a pivotal point in American history and presents the mass hysteria surrounding them in very poignant terms." --Publisher's Weekly
"This extraordinarily researched, expertly written, and convincing study is suitable for and will appeal to a wide audience." --Library Journal
"By almost any measure, Emerson W. Baker's new history, A Storm of Witchcraft, is a masterpiece. Few volumes pass the exacting standards needed to be described as such. Baker's does.... Anyone interested in the Salem witch trials and the shaping of the nation should treat themselves to this book." --Maine Sunday Telegram
About the Author
Emerson W. Baker is Professor of History at Salem State University. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England, and co-author of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips.
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Many books like to focus on victims, and some even focus on "the afflicted"; those that accused their neighbors of witchcraft. Professor Baker though goes much farther than that and talks about the judges, the people in power and in particular the two Mathers, Cotton and Increase, the learned ministers at the center of this storm.
The term "A Perfect Storm" gets thrown around a lot, but here it is appropriate. There was so much going on here that made the witch craze happen here when it was dying out everywhere else. It really was the last gasp of a dying movement of the Old World in the New World.
It was the start of the end of Pre-American Puritanism.
In this book Salem and 1692 take on a level of cultural impact that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 did in the United Kingdom.
The book is long, 400+ pages, and full of names. But those names belonged to people and those people left others behind. So Prof. Baker also delves into the impact these witch trials had on the new experiment that would become America.
This is easily one of those books you can read, do a little more research or reading on the subject elsewhere, and then come back to and learn something new still.
If I have one complaint, and that is way too strong of a word, it is that the last chapter was not long enough. I would have loved to have learned more about the cultural impact of 1692 on modern culture and how it shaped America. But that would be a complete other book.
Prof. Baker gives us not only a well researched and well-detailed book, he gives us a book that is easy to read and relate to. There was so much going on back in 1692 that we can relate to today.
The history of Salem is the history of America. The witch trials of 1692 are also part of America; our darker past that some (like the town of Danvers to a degree) would like to forget.
I also listened to the audio book. After listening to interviews with Prof. Baker I kinda wish he had narrated it himself.
Reasons for the 1692 hysteria were many. Puritans believed their religion was the best and, therefore, the devil would work hardest at destroying it. Crop failures may be blamed on witchcraft along with the heathen practices of the Indians. Boredom among the girls, illness which caused an early death, and the intolerance of the Puritans towards those of other religions were many. To the Puritans the only thing worse than a witch was a Catholic. Quakers who ventured into the Massachusetts Bay Colony risked execution. Like today neighbors didn't always get along and vengeance may be gained by accusing another individual as a witch.
Author Baker also provides research into the search for forgiveness upon citizens of Salem for seeing the error of their ways. Interesting tidbits are provided regarding the family tree of of individuals are given such as author Nathaniel Hawthorne being a direct descendant of Judge John Hathorne. Possible reasons are given why author Nathaniel added the "w" to his last name are provided. Israel Putnam, who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and author of the quote, "Don't shoot 'til you see the whites of their eyes" would be a descendant of the Salem Putnam family as would patriot Nathan Hale of the Reverend John Hale of Salem.
I have read other books on Salem but this newest effort by Emerson Baker I have found to be the most insightful. If this is a subject of interest to you I would strongly suggest you purchase a copy for your library. You need not be a scholar of history to enjoy the book. A general reader like myself found it to be fascinating reading.