THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege

Marilynne K. Roach, Author
Marilynne K. Roach, Author . Cooper Square $35 (784p) ISBN 978-0-8154-1221-2
Reviewed on: 09/23/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Paperback - 688 pages - 978-1-58979-132-9
Open Ebook - 252 pages - 978-1-58979-511-2
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The Salem witch trials of 1692–1693 remain one of the enigmas of American history. How did the witchcraft hysteria come about? Did the imaginations of the townspeople run wild so that they viewed unneighborly acts as an evil threat promulgated by Satan's minions? Roach (In the Days of the Salem Witchcraft Trial) answers these and other questions in her monumental daily chronology of the trial years. She introduces her account with an exhaustive narrative history of the Salem community from 1661 to 1691. With workmanlike precision, she provides historical details—such as the conflicts between church congregations and ministers and the increasing frequency of Indian attacks—as she contends that the hysteria arose most likely from the political, religious and social turmoil of the time. Using newly available diaries, journals and letters, Roach then reconstructs, for the first time, daily life during the height of the witch trials as well as accounts of court proceedings, arrests and suspects' confessions. In an epilogue, Roach shows that, just a decade after the trials, preachers sought repentance for the injustices done and that the desire to right the wrongs of the trials lasted well into the 19th century. Roach's detailed reference book provides deep insights into the trial years by letting us listen to the voices of everyone involved. 35 b&w illus. and maps. (Oct.)

Forecasts:Roach's book will provide a nice companion to Mary Beth Norton's In the Devil's Snare (Forecasts, July 1), also being released in October; booksellers who display them together may see increased sales.

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