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Top 10 Books on the Salem Witch Trials

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Top 10 Books on the Salem Witch Trials
Guide Picks, 
From Jone Johnson Lewis, About.com

The 1692 outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Salem Village, Massachusetts, has fascinated historians and the average reader alike for more than three hundred years. How could neighbor turn against neighbor? What light does this episode shed on women's lives? On human potential for similar "witch hunts" even in the 20th and 21st centuries? Here are some books to help sort through the evidence:

1) The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
by Carol F. Karlsen, 1998. An excellent treatment of the social forces in New England that led to witchcraft accusations, including in the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The author tries to make sense of the simple fact that an overwhelming number of the accusations were against women. The book is dry reading at times, but it's my opinion that it's definitely worth the effort.

2) In the Devil's Snare: Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
by Mary Beth Norton, 2002. Norton's thesis is that fear of Indian attacks, in the Puritan context where Native American's were assumed to be agents of the Devil, were central to explaining the witchcraft accusations and confessions of 1692. If you're trying to sort out the causes, you may want to stick with reading this plodding book to explore an interesting theory before making up your mind.

3) Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft
By Paul S. Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1976. A thorough treatment of many factors that contributed to the Salem witchcraft accusations and trials, including the social environment, the intricate economic connections of accusers and accused, the legal system, the unstable political situation and the internal politics within the parish's religious life.

4) Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England
By Elizabeth Reis, 1999. Reis also looks in particular at the question: why were women more likely to be accused? Reis concludes that for the Puritans, women were more closely connected to evil, by nature, thus more easily tempted. She also argues that the trials helped shift ideas about women, the devil and sin.

5) Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England  
.. in Colonial New England. Edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, reprinted 1997. If you've read several theories about why the witchcraft accusations happened, and want to check the original documents to see which theory makes the most sense, this collection of primary source material is a good starting point for drawing your own conclusions.

6) Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England
Edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, reprinted 1997. If you've read several theories about why the witchcraft accusations happened, and want to check the original documents to see which theory makes the most sense, this collection of primary source material is a good starting point for drawing your own conclusions.

7) A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials
By Frances Hill, 1995. A very readable version of the Salem witch trials and the repressed society which fostered the accusations and the encouragement of those accusations by supposedly responsible adults. Hill also draws parallels to more recent witch-hunts. Some scholars have pointed out factual errors in Hill's study, but the overall story is still compelling.

8) A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials
By Laurie Winn Carlson, 1999. An interesting and different argument: an epidemic of encephalitis produced the symptoms that led to the search for explanation in the witch hunts and trials. Issues of gender, psychology, socio-economic-political and legal conditions fade into the background. An interesting take which has convinced many readers.

9) The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History
By Peter Charles Hoffer, 1997. Hoffer details the legal and political situation in the 17th century that allowed as "evidence" in court allegations which today would be considered ludicrous. He focuses on the legal questions, especially on the question of dependable evidence. No gender analysis, psychology or anthropology here.

10) The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
By Marilynne K. Roach, 2002. A reconstruction of the trials and of daily life during the time of the accusations and trials, showing the church conflicts, the Indian attacks and other heightened social, political and religious troubles that may have led to the incidents.

** Recommended Fiction Book for Kids

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Forced to leave her sunny Caribbean home for the bleak Connecticut Colony, Kit Tyler is filled with trepidation. As they sail up the river to Kit's new home, the teasing and moodiness of a young sailor named Nat doesn't help. Still, her unsinkable spirit soon bobs back up. What this spirited teenager doesn't count on, however, is how her aunt and uncle's stern Puritan community will view her. In the colonies of 1687, a girl who swims, wears silk and satin gowns, and talks back to her elders is not only headstrong, she is in grave danger of being regarded as a witch. When Kit befriends an old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, it is more than the ascetics can take: soon Kit is defending her life. Who can she count on as she confronts these angry and suspicious townspeople?
A thoroughly exciting and rewarding Newbery Medal winner and ALA Notable Children's Book, Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond brings this frightening period of witch hysteria to life. Readers will wonder at the power of the mob mentality, and the need for communities in desperate times--even current times--to find a scapegoat. (Ages 9 and older) --Emilie Coulter --

Salem Witch Trials Student and Teacher Resources

Note: There were many misspellings in the page that I copied this from. I fixed the obvious ones, but there could be misspellings in the author's names, etc. that I did not fix, so be aware of that when you look up these resources.

Resources for Elementary Students:

Cobblestone, The History Magazine for Young People. September 1988.

Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village. c1956. - To be read to the class

Kent, Zachary. The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Children's Press, 1986

Lindsey, Clifford. The Devil's Shadow. c1967.

Petry, Ann. Tituba of Salem Village. Harper Trophy, 1991.

Starkey, Marion L. The Tall Man From Boston. Crown Publishers Inc. 1975.

Stevens, Bryna. Witches (Great Mysteries, Opposing Viewpoints). c1988.


Resources for Middle School Students:

Clapp, Patricia. Witches' Children. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard,1982

Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village. c1956.

Knight, James E. Salem Days. c1982. (Excellent art work appropriate for all grade levels)


Resources for High School Students:


Alderman, Clifford Lindsey. The Devil's Shadow: The Story of Witchcraft in Massachusetts. c1970. - Readable account of the background, participants, and effects of the witchcraft trials in Salem Village - well researched.

Dickinson, Alice. The Salem Witchcraft Delusion, l692: "Have You Made No Contract With the Devil ?" c1974. - Presents the social and religious background of the Salem witch hunts and describes the trials and their aftermath.

Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village. c1956. - Explains how the ravings of a group of schoolgirls began the hysteria and follows the trials through the end of the delusion.

Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials. c 1949. - Highly readable account of the trials that includes the author's psychological interpretation.

Starkey, Marion. The Visionary Girls: Witchcraft in Salem Village. c1973. - Views the social, political, and psychological make-up of seventeenth century Salem, and offers an explanation of why the witchcraft hysteria took place.


Miller, Arthur. The Crucible: A Play in Four Parts. c1959. - Play uses the witch trials of 1692 as a metaphor for the McCarthy Era of the1950's - explores the issue of intolerance.

Petry, Ann. Tituba of Salem Village. c1964. - Fictionalized biography of the slave Tituba explaining her role in the witch hysteria.

Resources for Teachers

Bonfanti, Leo. The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692. c1984 - Each trial is treated as a separate case study

Chadwick, Bruce. Infamous Trials. c.1997 - Reviews some of the most infamous trials in history, including the Salem Witch Trials

Phillips, James Duncan. Salem in the Seventeenth Century. c1935 - Local historian reviews witchcraft era.

Robinson, Enders A. The Devil Discovered, Salem Witchcraft 1692. c1991. - Short biographies of 86 victims.

Starkey, Marion A. The Devil in Massachusetts, A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials. c1949 - a readable and entertaining study.

Upham, Charles W. Salem Witchcraft; With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects. c1867 - Early classic study of the witchcraft hysteria.

Audio Visual:

Salem Witch Trials (History Channel) (A&E DVD Archives). Del Mar, California: McGraw Hill Films. Video. Black and White. 25 mins.

The Crucible (1996) - Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder.
A 17th-century Salem woman accuses an ex-lover's wife of witchery in an adaptation of the Arthur Miller play. The movie is centered around the Salem Massachusetts witch trials of 1692. The movie is based on the play "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller. He also wrote the screen play adaptation.

"Three Sovereigns for Sarah". Pisano, Victor. Los Angeles, Prism Entertainment, 1984. Video. Color. 132 mins.

"Witchcraft in America: Behind the Crucible", Educational Filmstrips. 1978. 1 color filmstrip/cassettes.

Source: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/witchesamerica/tp/aatpsalemwitch1.htm



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