The Specter of Salem: Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America / Edition 2

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Overview

"During the 1950s, as critics labeled Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist campaign a "witch hunt," Broadway's The Crucible similarly underscored links between cold war political investigations and the 1692 Salem witch trials. The Specter of Salem reveals that this twentieth-century cultural moment, often cited as marking the emergence of mainstream Salem evocations, actually followed a long and colorful history of appeals to American memories of the witch trials." From the American Revolution through the nineteenth century, Gretchen Adams demonstrates, this collective memory loomed large in public life. Schoolbooks in the 1790s, for example, invoked the episode to demonstrate the new nation's progress from a disorderly and brutal past to a rational present. Later, in the 1830s, critics of new religious movements cast them as a return to Salem-era fanaticism. And during the Civil War, Southern writers and politicians concocted images of witches burning in seventeenth-century Salem to critique what they saw as the North's savage extremism. Shedding new light on the many episodes in which Americans have invoked Salem to represent real or imagined threats to a progressive and rational society, Adams ultimately illuminates the function of collective memories in the life of a nation.
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Editorial Reviews

New England Quarterly
An imaginative and thoughtful examination of the process by means of which memory is made and remade. . . . Thought-provoking, informative, and convincingly presented, The Specter of Salem is an often spellbinding mix of politics, cultural history, and public historiography.

— James M. Lindgren

Choice

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"An important major work within the scholarly literature on the witch-hunt, linking the hysteria of that period to the evolving history of the American nation."

New England Quarterly - James M. Lindgren

"An imaginative and thoughtful examination of the process by means of which memory is made and remade. . . . Thought-provoking, informative, and convincingly presented, The Specter of Salem is an often spellbinding mix of politics, cultural history, and public historiography."
Choice

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"An important major work within the scholarly literature on the witch-hunt, linking the hysteria of that period to the evolving history of the American nation."

New England Quarterly

"An imaginative and thoughtful examination of the process by means of which memory is made and remade. . . . Thought-provoking, informative, and convincingly presented, The Specter of Salem is an often spellbinding mix of politics, cultural history, and public historiography."—James M. Lindgren, New England Quarterly

— James M. Lindgren

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226005416
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gretchen A. Adams is associate professor of history at Texas Tech University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Ch. 1 Mysteries, Memories, and Metaphors: From Event to Memory 10

Ch. 2 Memory and Nation: The Early Republic 37

Ch. 3 Not to Hell but to Salem: Antebellum Religious Crises 64

Ch. 4 Witch-Burners: The Politics of Sectionalism 94

Ch. 5 Witch-Hunters: The Era of Civil War and Reconstruction 119

Epilogue: The Crucible of Memory 149

Notes 159

Index 217

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