Paul Boyer, a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Stephen Nissenbaum, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, express their belief that socioeconomic tensions were responsible for the witchcraft hysteria in Salem village in their article, “Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft”. The inhabitants of Salem village were Puritans who left Great Britain to pursue their religious freedom. However, their search for the sacred land was merely a dream; as they set foot on the new land, they faced numerous challenges. In the article, Boyer and Nissenbaum point out, “problems which [confront] Salem Village … :the pressure of commercial capitalism and the social style that [accompany] it; the breaking away of outlying areas from parent towns … the shifting locus of authority within individ...
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...y wooden clothing commonly worn by the colonists” (Text 202).
By my reckoning, the crisis in Salem village was a result of not only socioeconomic tensions but also the disease. The socioeconomic tensions existed only in the society itself, and they wouldn’t lead to witch-hunts without the disease. According to Boyer and Nissenbaum, “in October, several hundred persons had been accused of witchcraft … when [the first accusation] broke out in February; there had been no indication that it would reach such proportions … [and] the accusations thrust steadily upward through the social strata of provincial society” (Text 193). This indicates that the disease was a tool for the villagers to express their anger by accusing their enemies practicing witchcraft. The Salem witch trials wouldn’t have occurred, if the disease hadn’t raged at such tense state in the Salem village.
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