A Review of Stacy Schiff's The Witches: Salem, 1692
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Little, Brown and Co., 2015) calls the events of 1692 a "genie-releasing crack-up on the way to the Constitution." The nine-month ordeal began with two screaming girls and ended with the execution of fourteen women, five men, and two dogs. No convicted witch was burned at the stake as we might expect. They were all hanged except for one man, who was pressed to death. One of the dogs was shot.
The Puritans did not come up with the criteria for what constituted witchcraft; they brought them with them from Europe. In England, Protestants had been prosecuting witches for over a century; Schiff says that between 1580 and 1680, Great Britain dispensed with no fewer than four thousand. Although the prosecution of witches slowed down in the seventeenth century, both Newton and Locke went to their graves believing that witches could do harm to other people.
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Arthur W. Hunt III is a former professor of public speaking at the University of Tennesse at Martin. He is now preparing to transition to ministry-related service and lives in the greater Memphis area.
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