During the seventeenth century Salem, Massachusetts is a seaport town populated mostly by Puritan colonists who came over from England in the seventeenth century. Beliefs of witchcraft came over with the settlers who, if caught practicing, was punishable by death. The Salem Witch Trials were a series of court cases in 1692 revolving around witchcraft where over hundred people were accused, nineteen were hanged, and one was pressed to death.
England had accused people of witchcraft dating back as far as the twelfth century, and it was not until the fourteenth century that they began to arrest and try citizens. The accused were mostly women, and by the seventeenth century over 50,000 so called witches had been punished by death. Europeans seriously feared witchcraft in that time, so anyone convicted of witchery was going to be tortured, in hopes she would reveal names of others, or just killed. An accused witch was thought to have made a pact with the Devil and would be named devils themselves. (LaPlante p33) The term devil included humans and spirits, anyone who acted devilish. (Roach) English Puritans were named so because they believed their religion to be more pure than that of the English Church; they considered themselves to be God’s chosen people. (Wilson 20) To break away from religious oppression by the English monarch, these people left England and moved their families to the New England Colonies. Along with their families, they brought with them: their bibles, strict work ethics, and their misconceptions of witchcraft. Many of these Puritans settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1692, an epidemic of accusations of witchcraft broke out in Salem. It started with the hysterical behaviors of two girls,...
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...k place in Salem in 1692. (Wilson 60)
The events that took place in seventeenth century Salem are still extremely controversial. Twenty-First century historians have continued to avoid trying to make sense of the trials, due to the fact that much of the physical evidence does not exist. Rumor and legend have mixed over the years, making it difficult to know what truly happened. Twenty people lost their lives in what is commonly known as one of the most hysterical events to plague American history. The Salem Witch Trials, though they only lasted nine months, have forever impacted the use of the judicial system to determine religious crimes.
Salem Witch Judge by Eve LaPlante
The Salem Witch Trials by Lori Lee Wilson
The Salem Witch Trials Reader by Frances Hill
6 Women of Salem by Marilynne Roach
Witch Hunt, a documentary of the History Channel
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