Salem Witch Trials

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Bryan F. Le Beau. The Story of the Salem Witch Trials Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

The Salem Witch Trials has been a debatable topic for many historians enamored by its deviation from the normal as seen in Europe or other European Colonies in North America. As presented in Bryan Le Beau’s book The Story of the Salem Witch Trials, the story of Salem is unique in that it is centered primarily around the communities incapability to harmonize with one another. In the first two chapters, the book introduces its readers to a brief history of witchcraft trials, including how they began in Europe and followed colonists to the New World. In chapter three, the book describes Salem as it was before the trials and its ultimate path to the devastation it eventually created. It describes the division of the community and how that led to “…the point of institutional, demographic, and economic polarization” (p.50). Le Beau’s thesis is that “New England communities…suffered from the economic, social, political, and religious dislocations of the modernization process of the Early Modern Period, but to a greater extent than others,” he believed, “Salem village fell victim to warring factions, misguided leadership, and geographical limitations that precluded its dealing effectively with those problems” (p.43). The chapters following Le Beau’s thesis chronologically present the Salem Witch Craft trials and what was left in the wake the realization that followed.

In using primary sources, the author is able to assert his thesis more thoroughly to his readers. A primary example of this can be seen in his descriptions of the separate cases in which were tried. He used direct quotations from the accused to make the book more personable so that the reader may be able to digest what is happening. Take the primal case Le Beau describes; that of “Martha and Giles Corey and Dorcas Good” (p.65). The author depicts the apprehension scene of Martha Good tactfully with...
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