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In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692by Mary Beth Norton
Synopses & Reviews
Award-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reexamines the Salem witch trials in this startlingly original, meticulously researched, and utterly riveting study.
In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptied the northern frontier of settlers, and many traumatized refugees—including the main accusers of witches—had fled to communities like Salem. Meanwhile the colonys leaders, defensive about their own failure to protect the frontier, pondered how Gods people could be suffering at the hands of savages. Struck by the similarities between what the refugees had witnessed and what the witchcraft “victims” described, many were quick to see a vast conspiracy of the Devil (in league with the French and the Indians) threatening New England on all sides. By providing this essential context to the famous events, and by casting her net well beyond the borders of Salem itself, Norton sheds new light on one of the most perplexing and fascinating periods in our history.
"Byatt is a writer who struggles mightily to be the undertaker of her own silliness. She buries what George Eliot called 'feminine fatuity' under a mountain of bibliographic cavil. Byatt is credited with being a novelist of ideas, but really she is a melodramatic pedant. She sees herself as the granddaughter of Eliot, who taught her, she has written, that characters can 'worry an idea, they are, within their limits, responsive to politics and art and philosophy and history.' She seems not to have noticed that Eliot's greatness has something to do with her patient tapping out of the individual keys of moral slippage, her intelligent and humane and believable descriptions of complexity, which is never confused with aesthetic and historical filigree. Byatt prefers wiggly surfaces to sure depths. She depends on her readers' exhaustion, or insecurity, to claim Eliot's mantle. Who, after all, could be left standing, in a mood for close reading — let alone considered thinking — after ingesting the learnedness with which Byatt lards the four novels of her quartet?" Lorraine Adams, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"Norton is an especially productive and influential scholar, specializing in the history of women in colonial and revolutionary America. As a feminist, Norton initially felt drawn to the Salem story because it pivoted around female protagonists: the accusing girls and most of the accused witches. In Puritan society, the reinforcing hierarchies of gender, age, and wealth ordinarily cast young women working as household servants at the social bottom....But deeper research soon persuaded Norton that the primary, long-hidden story required closer attention to 'the hitherto neglected men accused in 1692,' especially Reverend George Burroughs. The writing of social history has certainly reached a new stage when a leading feminist scholar can conclude that her peers have so successfully rescued colonial women from obscurity that ? at least for the Salem story ? we have lost sight of pivotal characters because they were men." Alan Taylor, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
An admired historian offers a unique account of the events at Salem, Massachusetts, helping readers to understand the witch hunt as it was understood by those who lived through the frenzy.
About the Author
Mary Beth Norton is Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University. She is the author of The British-Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774—1789 (1972); Libertys Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750—1800 (1980); Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (1996), which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and (with five others) A People and a Nation (6th ed., 2001). She has also edited several works on womens history and served as the general editor of The AHA Guide to Historical Literature (3rd ed., 1995).
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