The Salem Witch Trials

2023 Words9 Pages
During the early winter of 1692 two young girls became inexplicably ill and started having fits of convulsion, screaming, and hallucinations. Unable to find any medical reason for their condition the village doctor declared that there must be supernatural forces of witchcraft at work. This began an outbreak of hysteria that would result in the arrest of over one hundred-fifty people and execution of twenty women and men. The madness continued for over four months. The notorious witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts occurred from June through September. It is a brief, but turbulent period in history and the causes of the trials have long been a source of discussion among historians. Many try to explain or rationalize the bizarre happenings of the witch hunts and the causes that contributed to them. To understand the trials and how they came to be, we must first examine the ideals and views of the people surrounding the events. Although religious beliefs were the most influential factor, socioeconomic tensions, and ergot poisoning are also strongly supported theories. A combination of motives seems the most rational explanation of the frenzy that followed the illness of the two girls. This paper looks closely at the some of the possible causes of one of the most notable occurrences in history. The Puritans were Englishmen who chose to separate from the Church of England. Puritans believed that the Anglican Church or Church of England resembled the Roman Catholic Church too closely and was in dire need of reform. Furthermore, they were not free to follow their own religious beliefs without punishment. In the sixteenth century the Puritans settled in the New England area with the idea of regaining their principles of the Christi... ... middle of paper ... ...ty men and women had been accused of being witches. Of those, nineteen of them plead innocent and were hung. One man refused to acknowledge the accusation and refused to enter a plea. He was legally crushed to death. Of the ones who plead guilty and were sent to jail, many contracted illnesses and later died. The outbreak of hysteria caused many to suffer and die, families to break apart, and a society to succumb to the whims of children. In the Puritans quest to create a perfect society based on pure beliefs only created a society ripped apart by tension, anxiety and fear. For over 300 years, historians, sociologists, psychologists and others continue to research and write about them to this day, and they continue to serve as a reminder of how politics, family squabbles, religion, economics and the imaginations and fears of people can yield tragic consequences.

More about The Salem Witch Trials

Open Document