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Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than 130 people were accused of witchcraft in what are commonly
known as the Salem Witch Trials (although hearings were held in several Massachusetts towns).  Nineteen people –
mostly women – were executed.  Neighbors accused neighbors, children their parents, husbands their wives.

The executions at Salem were not the first of their kind in the American colonies — but the Salem Witch Trials stand
as one of the most notorious cases of mass hysteria in the United States.  The trials are a cautionary tale about the
dangers of isolationism, religious extremism and lapses in due process.  

Many historians consider the trials to have been highly influential in the history of the United States.  According to
historian George Lincoln Burr, "the Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the theocracy shattered".

While Salem was not the first witch hunt in America, it was also not our last.  Let’s try to make some sense out of
this strange episode in our founding history – and see if there are any lessons for the 21st century!

Topics to be Covered

  • Brief History of Witchcraft Trials
  • The Puritans
  • The Supernatural Legacy of Calvinism:  God, Satan and Witchcraft  
  • The State of Affairs in Massachusetts Bay Colony and Salem
  • The Mathers:  Increase and Cotton
  • The Trials, their Aftermath and their Legacy
Recommended Resources

Frances Hill: A Delusion Of Satan: The Full Story Of The Salem Witch Trials

Stacey Schiff: The Witches: Salem, 1692

History Channel Video: Salem Witch Trials

PBS Home Video: Three Sovereigns for Sarah

Arthur Miller: The Crucible

Course Materials and Additional Resources
(Available when class is in session)
Kevin P. Dincher
1692:  Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered in Salem