The Salem Witchcraft Trials A Legal History

by Peter Charles (University of Georgia) Hoffer

Part of the Landmark Law Cases and American Society Series

The Salem Witchcraft Trials A Legal History Synopsis

In late 17th-century New England, the eternal battle between God and Satan was brought into the courtroom. Between January 1692 and May 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts, neighbours turned against neighbours and children against parents with accusations of witchcraft, and 19 people were hanged for having made pacts with the devil. Peter Charles Hoffer, a historian long familiar with the Salem witchcraft trials, now reexamines this notorious episode in American history. He tells the real story of how religious beliefs, superstitions, clan disputes and Anglo-American law and custom created an epidemic of accusations that resulted in the investigation of nearly 200 colonists and, for many, the ordeal of trial and incarceration. He also examines life during this crisis period of New England history - a time beset by Indian wars, disease, severe weather, and challenges to Puritan hegemony - to show how an atmosphere of paranoia contributed to this outbreak of persecution. Hoffer examines many aspects of this history, from accusations to grand jury investigations to the conduct of the trials themselves. He shows how rights we take for granted today - such as rules of evidence and a defendant's right to legal counsel - did not exist in colonial times, and he demonstrates how these cases relate to current instances of children accusing adults of abuse. The Salem Witchcraft Trials , a concise history written expressly for students and general readers, sheds important light on the period and shows that our horror of these infamous proceedings must be tempered with sympathy for a people who gave in to panic in the face of a harsh and desolate existence.

The Salem Witchcraft Trials A Legal History Press Reviews

This book provides perhaps the best one-volume introduction to an episode that has challenged historians for centuries. It provides not only a lucid and engrossing narrative but also satisfying explanations that seamlessly interweave the best of modern scholarship. --David Thomas Konig, editor of Devising Liberty: Preserving and Creating Freedom in the New American Republic Hoffer writes with a rare lucidity and vividness, and with a rare compassion as well. He makes the actors in this perplexing drama as comprehensible as they are ever likely to be. --Michael Zuckerman, author of Almost Chosen People and Peaceable Kingdoms Hoffer's analysis sheds important light on early American law. --Law and Politics Book Review Useful and compelling. --Review of Politics Hoffer enhances his presentation with a good eye for specific turning points in the Salem crisis, and that attentiveness lends support for his emphasis on the importance of human agency. --William and Mary Quarterly Present[ed] well and in a manner easily grasped by the general reader. --Choice

Book Information

ISBN: 9780700608591
Publication date: 8th October 1997
Author: Peter Charles (University of Georgia) Hoffer
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 160 pages
Categories: History of the Americas, Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, Social & cultural history,

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