Early US Literature

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Episodes of Witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials


This brief list offers select primary works used to analyze the events that took place during the Salem Witch Trails in the 17th century. Some of the books were written during or shortly after the events; others were written decades later to analyze the events.

Boyer, Paul S.,Nissenbaum, Stephen. “Salem possessed the social origins of witchcraft.” 1974.Web.

This book was published as an effort in tapping into the Salem Witch Trials and documents. The writers believe that the wealth of information available since the trials has not been tapped into by recent historians. The book provides a chronology of events in Salem Village, beginning with the founding of the town in 1626 and up to 1752 when Salem became the independent town, Danvers. The book, mainly, focuses on the town and the families residing in Salem during the witch accusations. Additionally, the book includes maps of Salem, town and village, as well as land owners such as Putnam and Porters. In addition, the book contains charts regarding the size of Salem Village and land ownership, wealth, and other information relating to Salem and its citizens. The book offers an extensive amount of information on two families, Putnam and Porter; following their genealogy and history. It is a great addition for a research on the Salem Witch Trials as it provides a perspective on the people and the village during the outbreak of the witch accusations.

Boyer, Paul.,Nissenbaum, Stephen.,. Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1972. Print.

A historical record of the Salem Witch trials, this book is intended for scholars and students in history. The records are presented in a provocative form to allow students to investigate the social conflicts of that era. The book contains transcripts of five witch accusations. The transcript records were derived from the surviving documents on the Salem-Village witchcraft that were arranged in 1938 the Works Progress Administration. The trials of witchcraft cases included in this book are for Sara Good, Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, John Willard, George Burroughs and other testimonials. The trials of Sara Good are particularly interesting, as the book states, information regarding her life was not as easy to track. The records available on Sara Good include an invoice from Benjamin Browne to Sara Good, and also records of her father, John Solart, a dispute over his estate. The book also includes comments by outside authorities such as, Cotton Mather to John Foster, Governor William Phips to the Earl Nottingham and so on.  The book also follows the accusers such as Samuel Parris, the Wilkins family, Putnam family and others.  Additionally, the book provides an extensive amount of information regarding the history of Salem Village. The book does not dwell on the theological aspects during the witchcraft accusations, and only includes three sermons on Salem-Village Witchcraft.  Additionally, the book does not cover the political aspects that caused the outbreak.

Mather, Cotton,, Mather, Increase,, Harry Houdini Collection (Library of Congress),. The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of several Witches Lately Executed in New-England. London: John Russell Smith, 1862. Print.

The book, composed by Cotton and Increase Mather, follow the events in Salem-Village. The witch trial accusations transcribed through the lens of the puritans at that time. The book is divided into 6 sections; the first section contains the author’s defense, letters and encounters. The second section follows the discourse on the supernatural world. The section includes trials and narratives and several curiosities. Curiosities, as sampled in the book, appear to be statements of witchcraft and curious behavior. The third section provides accounts of temptations from the “Devil”. When reading these accounts one must keep in mind that they were written in 1862 and devils and spirits were commonly discussed and feared by most puritans. The remainder of the book discusses different accounts and trials of witchcraft. The book is great as it provides a window to the world of the puritans to experience and understand their rational during the Salem Witch Trials. Using examples from scriptures, and different argumentative reasoning for the supernatural occurrences.

Mather, Cotton. Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions. Printed at Boston in N. England: by R.P., 1689, sold by Joseph Brunning …, 1689. Print.

Cotton Mather, a key figure in the Salem Witch Trials, wrote this book on an account of an episode of witchcraft revolving around Goody Glover. The book was published in 1689 and is available on microfilm at Kent State University’s library. The year of publication and the copy available online makes it difficult to read, but it does provide an interesting insight to the 17th century ideology in America. Cotton Mather begins the book explaining that the episodes mentioned in the book are either witnessed by him, or observed by others and passed on to him. There are accounts of witchcraft reported to him by fathers’ of children and different members of the community. The episodes of witchcraft that Mather sights are narrated in an anecdote form. There are over 7 examples of witchcraft in the book. Additionally, he explains witchcraft and other forms of devil’s work. If conducting research on Salem-Village or the Salem Witch Trials, this book would be a good place to start. The book offers encounters and examples transcribed from the people who initiated or help initiate the trials.

Seabrook, William,,. Witchcraft, its Power in the World Today. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1940. Print.

The author of this book states that the book is factual and the people and places mentioned in the book are real. The book, the author states, is addressed to rational readers who do not believe in witchcraft and black magic. The author argues that the witchcraft and power that most see and believe is not supernatural, however, witchcraft relies on psychology to perform their craft. Part one in the book follows the witches and their dolls. The chapter follows the history of dolls and their role in witchcraft, and different uses for these dolls. The author discusses incidents and encounters with dolls and witchcraft. In part two, the book covers vampires and werewolves. The author identifies the differences between the factitious or supernatural image of a vampire and a werewolf and the reality. The author explains the behavior of such individuals in terms of psychology. This book might be interesting to read, however, this book does not provide information for a scholarly research. Aside from historical, geographical background on witchcraft the book’s information and argument seem very dated for the most part.


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