Print ISBN: 978-1-63700-768-6
# of Pages: 300
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $175.00
e-ISBN: 978-1-63700-769-3
eBook User Price: $175.00
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Defining Documents in American History: The Salem Witch Trials

September 2024

The Salem Witch Trials, which took place in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693, have become indicative of mass hysteria, religious extremism, and false accusations occurring outside the fair and just rule of law. But what may not be as commonly known is that they were part of a wider phenomenon at the time – a fear and prosecution of witchcraft stemming back to Europe in the 1400s that led to the deaths of upwards of 60,000 people, most of them women.

In Europe, these witch-hunts were notably severe in the Holy Roman Empire, and reached a peak between 1560 and 1630, also occurring in Scotland and England, as well as other European nations to varying degrees. As the fervor in Europe began to wane in the latter half of the 17th century, the sentiment continued in the fringes and made its way to the New World, with the earliest documented execution for witchcraft occurring in Connecticut in 1647. Increasingly fearful and vitriolic rhetoric, publications attempting to prove the existence of witches and demons, and growing mass hysteria led to the dramatic and deadly events in Salem, in which more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft and more than 20 were put to death.

This volume explores the development of witch-hunts in the New World, from early incidents in Connecticut to the major events in Salem, as well as precedents in Europe, and later cultural reverberations such as hysteria over perceived Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s. Documents examined include historical accounts, book excerpts, court cases, religious doctrines, petitions, and more.

About the Series

The Defining Documents series provides in-depth commentary and analysis on the most important primary source documents in the United States and the world. The Defining Documents series is perfect for students, those researching a particular era, or anyone interested in world history. Visit for more information about additional titles in this series.

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