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A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trialsby Laurie Carlson
Synopses & Reviews
In the late winter and early spring of 1692, residents of Salem Village, Massachusetts, began to suffer from strange physical and mental maladies. The randomness of the victims, and unusual symptoms that were seldom duplicated, led residents to suspect an otherworldly menace. Their suspicions and fears eventually prompted the infamous Salem Witch Trials. While most historians have concentrated their efforts on the accused, Laurie Winn Carlson, A Fever in Salem focuses on the afflicted. What were the characteristics of a typical victim? Why did the symptoms occur when and where they did? What natural explanation could be given for symptoms that included hallucinations, convulsions, and psychosis, often resulting in death? Ms. Carlson offers an innovative, well-grounded explanation of witchcraft s link to organic illness. Systematically comparing the symptoms recorded in colonial diaries and court records to those of the encephalitis epidemic in the early twentieth century, she argues convincingly that the victims suffered from the same disease, and she offers persuasive evidence for organic explanations of other witchcraft victims throughout New England as well as in Europe. A Fever in Salem is a provocative reinterpretation of one of America s strangest moments, and a refreshing departure from widely accepted Freudian explanations of witchcraft persecution.
An innovative, well-grounded explanation of witchcraft's link to organic illness, in which Ms. Carlson argues that Salem's victims suffered from an outbreak of encephalitis similar to the epidemic of the early 20th century.
Here, Laurie Wells Carlson offers a fresh explanation of witchcraft's link to organic illness. She focuses on the afflicted of Salem, rather than on the accused, and offers an argument that the "bewitched" victims suffered from an outbreak of encephalitis.
This new interpretation of the New England Witch Trials offers an innovative, well-grounded explanation of witchcraft's link to organic illness. While most historians have concentrated on the accused, Laurie Winn Carlson focuses on the afflicted. Systematically comparing the symptoms recorded in colonial diaries and court records to those of the encephalitis epidemic in the early twentieth century, she argues convincingly that the victims suffered from the same disease. A unique blend of historical epidemiology and sociology. --Katrina L. Kelner, Science. Meticulously researched...the author marshalls her arguments with clarity and persuasive force. --New Yorker
Includes bibliographical references (p. 183-188) and index.
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