Mary Beth Norton is a Historian and American History Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Norton has been instructing college students since 1971. Norton has graduated from the University of Michigan and she moved forward to earn a PhD with Harvard University. Norton is also the founder of the Womenr’s Studies Program at Cornell University. Mary was the author of the book Founding Mothers and Fathers taking her to the final round for the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1997 (Baron Lecture-Mary Beth Norton).
In the Devilr’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 the events of the Salem Witch Crisis took place. Citizens of Massachusetts were in a wide range panic and the accusations of witches was getting out of control. Norton starts the novel with a thesis, I failed to anticipate when I first embarked on this project. (In the Devilr’s Snare, Page 4, Paragraph 3). Norton expected to base this volume largely on a feminist reinterpretation of familiar materials, primarily the court records published in the Salem Witchcraft Papers and other documents commonly consulted by Salem scholars. (In the Devilr’s Snare, Page 4, Paragraph 3). With a feministic mindset, she started her journey on research, but what she came to discover was a potential alternate cause for the crisis of 1692. What Norton found was a new interpretation of the witchcraft crisis (In the Devilr’s Snare, Page 4, Paragraph 4).
Norton had realized multiple things with the time period of the 1690r’s. The main idea of this book is to identify how the effects of two Indian Wars can cause massive amounts of confusion, stress, and chaos on a small town of Massachusetts. Norton identifies how the families of Salem and the surrounding areas where always threatened with attacks from the Wabanaki and similar Native American Tribes. Norton explains that in one occasion over 50 casualties occurred from a single Wabanaki attack on a northern frontier town. She explains how Salemr’s puritan government, terrified and defensive due to failures of protecting the frontier from French and Indian attacks, lead to a massive doubt in God. How could God let the Puritan citizens be murdered while they worship him so frequently and thoroughly?
Norton adds vast amount of detail of the trials. A few indications of witchcraft include: Visually witnessing a specter of a person or animal levitating from the ground, frequent murders occurring within the area, consorting with animals, possessing the ?Devils Mark (typically a growth or birthmark), unusual strength for a female, and the inability to successfully repeat the Lords Prayer. These were the highlighted signs that a person was possessed by the devil.
Norton explained that the numbers for the accused were in the hundreds, specifically 144 in total. 106 women and 38 men were prosecuted by the Puritan judicial system. Fourteen women and five men were hanged until dead during a trial. One man was crushed by the weight of stones during another trial. Three women, a man, and countless infants passed away while imprisoned for pleading guilty to witchcraft. All parties who had confessed to being guilty during the trials were not executed. Death was usually brought by the trials as proof of witchcraft. Norton also thoroughly explains how the citizens were extremely intelligent during this time period, and social classes identified who was likely to be prosecuted for witchcraft.
Personally, the book was interesting, but difficult to get through. There is a hefty amount of detail pertaining to this topic. Nortonr’s interpretation of this historical event has made me think outside of basic social classes and politics. Nortonr’s book focuses on alternative ideas such as war, mental stability, and the level of life difficulty for this time period. Even though the book was very detailed, it still my interest from start to finish.
Another historical book I am referencing is Documents of the Salem Witch Trials. This book is written by Eye Witness Accounts and edited by David Gross. This book was published in 2018. I am referencing this book for several reasons. The first reason is because the book came out this year, which means that potentially newer information was interpreted during the creation of this book. Another reason I chose this book as a second reference was because it has written statements directly from the prosecuted, the judges, and the other parties involved.
I am also referencing A delusion of Satan: the full story of the Salem witch trials. Written by Frances Hill and published in 2002. This book seems to be more gripping than In the Devilr’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. This book goes into further detail on individuals who were accused during the trials. The details seem more gruesome, which would potentially attract more people to read this book. This is a good starting point for basic information from the victims of the crisis in 1692.
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