The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England

Emerson W. Baker, Author . Palgrave Macmillan $24.95 (244p) ISBN 978-1-4039-7207-1

Baker, who teaches history at Salem State College, examines a witchcraft accusation made a decade before the more famous Salem outbreak. In June 1682, someone showered stones at a Great Island, N.H., tavern owned by a Quaker named George Walton. When the stone-throwing continued through the summer, Walton accused his neighbor, widow Hannah Jones, of witchcraft. The neighbor, in turn, charged that Walton was a wizard. Baker helpfully connects the Great Island event to other stone-throwing episodes in early New England, and he uncovers some of the social factors—including town politics, a property dispute, and struggles between Walton and his servants—that lurked underneath the Great Island drama. His examination of anti-Quaker sentiment is especially nuanced. Baker is widely read in the academic literature on witchcraft; in fact, his analysis is mostly derivative, leaning heavily on works by John Demos, Carol Karlsen, Mary Beth Norton and others. Baker's use of anachronistic analogies like “the witchcraft accusation... might be seen as the seventeenth-century equivalent of 'playing the race card' ” do more to obscure than illuminate. Still, colonial history buffs will appreciate this account of the strange happenings in Great Island. Maps. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-0-230-62387-3
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-230-60683-8
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