Witches and Witch-Hunts: A History of Persecution

Overview

Famous for his coverage of controversial subjects, Milton Meltzer explores the devastation that witch-hunts have caused throughout history and uncovers the truth behind the frenzy, prejudice, and discrimination. This high-interest book presents a fascinating examination of witch-hunts as outlets for social and economic conflicts.

Traces the origins and progression of hysteria, fear, and persecution associated with witches and ...

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Overview

Famous for his coverage of controversial subjects, Milton Meltzer explores the devastation that witch-hunts have caused throughout history and uncovers the truth behind the frenzy, prejudice, and discrimination. This high-interest book presents a fascinating examination of witch-hunts as outlets for social and economic conflicts.

Traces the origins and progression of hysteria, fear, and persecution associated with witches and witchcraft in western societies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Meltzer (Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust) crams a lot of ideas and insights into this ambitious, unusually meaty survey of witch-hunts from medieval Europe to 20th-century America. Some of his perceptions are piercing in their simplicity and acuity: for example, he posits that a believer in witchcraft is not satisfied by an explanation of how some misfortune has occurred; the believer wants to know why the misfortune has befallen him or her. Meltzer supplies superb documentation, as in a letter smuggled out of a 17th-century German prison describing exactly how its author had been forced to confess to witchcraft and to implicate others. However, Meltzer leaves an uncharacteristic number of gaps, both small and large. There are incomplete statements of fact (e.g., he writes, "When Christianity became the state religion back in the early fourth century," while referring to Europe in general); and some material is inadequately analyzed (e.g., he balances a discussion of the prejudice directed at midwives by citing a 17th-century English midwife's handbook, but he doesn't indicate the influence or reception of that book). In the contemporary sections, the comparisons of Inquisition-style witch-hunts with the persecution of Jews under Hitler and of Communists under McCarthy are sketched out rather than closely reasoned--they form a starting point rather than a conclusion. Given the breadth of Meltzer's thesis and his wide variety of perspectives (feminist, anthropological, etc.), it is perhaps not surprising that depth suffers; fortunately, what is presented has color and bite, more than enough to get readers thinking on their own. Ages 8-14. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
ALAN Review
Witches have long been a topic of interest to adolescents. Now, with the success of the low budget horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, interest in witches and witchcraft has increased among adolescents. Meltzer's thoughtful new nonfiction book on witchcraft fits the bill. It is not a simple recounting of the witchcraft trials of the past. Instead, Meltzer discusses the reasons behind many of the witch-hunts, giving readers a broader view. Working chronologically from the past to the present, Meltzer presents information about witch-hunts around the world. Included in his analyses are stories of traditional witches who cast spells and non-traditional figures, like Adolf Hider and Joseph McCarthy, who masterminded their own devastating modern-day witch-hunts. Teachers looking for ways to discuss issues such as prejudice, discrimination, and racism will find this book quite useful. Social studies teachers will find Meltzer's approach an excellent model of historical analysis for their classrooms. He once again demonstrates that nonfiction can be interesting as well as informative. Genre: Witchcraft/Nonfiction. 1999, Blue Sky/Scholastic Press, Ages 9 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Teri S. Lesesne
Children's Literature - Judy Chernak
Although published in large print, this fact-filled book is not for youngsters, or for adults of weak constitution. Its scholarly discussion of one of humankind's great scourges could turn even the staunchest stomach, so that I found myself both eagerly absorbing its fascinating exposés and fervently wishing its stark pages would quickly conclude. Meltzer blames the persecution of suspected witches--in almost all cases innocent women--squarely on the shoulders of bishops, judges, kings and misguided (or nasty) children, and furnishes plenty of historical references and psychological explanations. He includes Hitler and McCarthy as modern witch-hunters who exploited the political and social situations of modern times and created unparalleled human devastation just as surely as did the Salem trials and the Inquisition. He concludes by giving credit to the few throughout the ages who risked their own necks and often died in order to speak up for the victimized. There's a wealth of good information here; but be aware that malleable youngsters could adopt some of the negative behaviors described.
Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Fear of witches and the harm they can accomplish through witchcraft is centuries old. This history details some of the well-documented cases of persecutions in Europe and America. Along the way, specific characteristics of witches and powers attributed to them by suspicious neighbors are revealed. Quotes from accused witches and accounts of witch trials illuminate the relentless persecutions that have taken place, especially against women, children, and other traditionally helpless people. Meltzer makes a unique connection between historic witch-hunts and 20th-century horrors including Hitler's Holocaust and Joseph McCarthy's "Red Scare" caused by fear of the perceived power of a particular group of people. Chapter source notes and an extensive bibliography complete this fascinating study.-Ann G. Brouse, Big Flats Branch Library, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590485173
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001

    Interesting Book

    If you are interested in witches and with-hunts I would recommend this book to you. It tells you about the olden day Salem witch-hunts all the way up to modern day witches. I think that this is very interesting and recommend it to everyone who is interested in witches.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2000

    Great!

    This book was filled with unusual and interesting facts about The Salem Witch Trials and many others! This is a wonderful book for projects or just fun reading!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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