A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience

Emerson W. Baker. Oxford Univ, $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-19-989034-7
Salem, Mass., also known as “Witch City,” is infamous for its 1692 witch trials, in which at least 169 people were accused and 19 hanged as witches (plus the five who died in prison and Giles Corey, who was pressed to death). The Salem trials weren’t the first, only, or largest in history, but they remain among the best-known. 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 placet 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. He ends the book with an explicit comparison between 17th-century worries about witches and 21st-century concerns about terrorists, leaving the reader with much to wonder considering how far America has really come. The scholarly tone of the writing may turn off those without a serious interest in the topic, and Baker’s approach is more comprehensive than in-depth. The premise, however is noteworthy, and the work is successful. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/18/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-19-062780-5
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