In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well this was a fun, albeit tedious, one to read. Mary Beth Norton, a feminist historian, took a look at all the “interpretations” of the Salem Witch Trials, and finally concluded they all got it wrong. She set about putting all the legal and personal documents into a chronological timeline and you might say she found something many historians (who were wearing the feminist tinted glasses) had missed when looking at this famous period of early colonial history.
In short, most historians had never made the connection between how all of the “victims” of the witches, and many of the witches themselves, had either been or had relatives affected by the Wabanaki Indian wars on the Maine frontier. In other words, the Puritan mindset of coming to establish a City on a Hill, and thus coming into spiritual conflict with unseen powers, became a broiling fear of witches who were in league with the Indian tribes which the settlers were locked in gruesome battles with.
This was a very thorough history of the Salem Witch crisis, and Norton, to her credit, refuses to put on the “smash the patriarchy” mindset that many of her predecessors have. She argues that what made the Salem trials different is that very young women were given more legal clout than ever before during this crisis. This was not the Patriarchy trying to suppress and kill “unruly women.” This was the result of fear unfettered and imaginations left to run wild. On the whole, a really worthwhile book with some fascinating historical details.