Salem Repossessed

Paul Harvey

My graduate student Brad Hart, who blogs at American Creation, has pointed me to "Salem Repossessed" from the July 2008 issue of the William & Mary Quarterly. The issue includes a substantive forum featuring an all-star lineup of scholars of the Salem Witch Trials. I have yet to see it, doubt I'll get to it for a while, so in the meantime I'm depending on Brad's posts on the articles, the first of which is here. Thanks to Brad for keeping us up to scholarly date on this historical perennial.

(I should add that at American Creation, Brad and others have taken on the Sisyphean task of arguing against the various "America was founded as a Christian nation" cranks and wannabe theocrats, whose ahistorical nonsense seems to be proliferating in certain sectors of the evangelical subculture).

My students will be discussing the trials in Theory and Methods of History soon, using the nice chapter on it in After the Fact and the primary documents at the wonderful Salem Witch Trial documents site (and also using the documents compiled in David Hall's Witch Hunting in 17th-Century New England). For me, it's always been a reliable exericse in demonstrating the vagaries of historical interpretation. Last year, a student used a map from the documents website to visually trash the Boyer/Nissenbaum thesis; I'm not sure if he was right, but it sure made for a fun class period.

The contents for the special issue:

Third Series, Volume 65, Number 3 July 2008

Forum: Salem Repossessed

Jane Kamensky, Salem Obsessed; Or, Plus Ça Change: An Introduction

Margo Burns and Bernard Rosenthal, Examination of the Records of the Salem Witch Trials

Richard Latner, Salem Witchcraft, Factionalism, and Social Change Reconsidered: Were Salem’s Witch-Hunters Modernization’s Failures?

Benjamin C. Ray, The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village
Web Supplement

John Demos, What Goes Around Comes Around

Mary Beth Norton, Essex County Witchcraft

Carol F. Karlsen, Salem Revisited

Sarah Rivett, Our Salem, Ourselves

Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed in Retrospect


Brad Hart said…
Thanks for the plug, Dr. Harvey! So did you read some of the stuff off the website, Is America a Christian Nation? I noticed that you have it linked on this post. A very "interesting" perspective.
Paul Harvey said…
Brad: The stuff on that website is the standard-issue stuff of these cranks, I linked just to show an example of what is out there. See you in a few weeks!

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