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Primary sources include court depositions as well as excerpts from the diaries and letters of contemporaries. They cover trials for witchcraft, reports of diabolical possessions, suits of defamation, and reports of preternatural events. Each section is preceded by headnotes that describe the case and its background and refer the reader to important secondary interpretations. In his incisive introduction, David D. Hall addresses a wide range of important issues: witchcraft lore, antagonistic social relationships, the vulnerability of women, religious ideologies, popular and learned understandings of witchcraft and the devil, and the role of the legal system. This volume is an extraordinarily significant resource for the study of gender, village politics, religion, and popular culture in seventeenth-century New England.
Posted November 15, 2009
"Witch Hunting in Seventh Century New England" is a fine display of historical documents concerning the New England witch trials of the 1600's. Long before the Salem trials of 1692, neighbor turned on neighbor for a variety of reasons, often ending in the death of the accused. In reading the statements of the accusers, it is often difficult to understand how supposedly learned men could take some of the accusations seriously, but that was another time.
Although the language can sometimes be difficult (these are direct transcriptions of court testimony),this is a must read for anyone interested in witchcraft, women's studies or history in general.