Escaping Salem Review

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Escaping Salem begins to examine the people behind some of the stories in the relatively quiet community of Stamford. The book looks at one particular case of a girl named Kate Branch of her fits or rage, her delusions and her overall strange behavior. It discusses the people that many believed were witches and why they considered them witches. Though the arguments were often weak, the arguments gained traction and led to the trials of a couple of women accused of being witches. Escaping Salem takes you in to the courtroom as you see some of the problems of the prosecution and the difficulty of 'proving' witchcraft. I had always believed that trials were thrown together to just convict but you can see that there was definitely more effort needed to convict someone. The biggest problem I had with the book is that it often reads more like a textbook until the last chapter when the author interjects more of his thoughts and conclusions. The book is using public documents so there are some holes in the story which Godbeer tries to fill. Overall, it provides an interesting glimpse into the late 1600s court system and witch hysteria. In ways, it reminds me of the Red Scare of the 1950s. Although many of the early settlers to the New World were attempting to escape religious persecution in Europe, they still brought some of the same thoughts with them. Among those beliefs were the ideas of witchcraft and using its powers to “get even” with those who crossed them. Those ideas culminated in the witch hunts and trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Yet, that wasn’t the only place they occurred. Other towns held similar trials, even though not on the scale of those in Salem. One such place was Stamford, Connecticut, as shown in this book. Godbeer studied actual documents and trial transcripts to learn the dynamics behind the witch hunts and relates those findings to the reader. Godbeer shows that much of what was previously believed about the witch hunts is highly...
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