social cause of the salem witch trials
Therefore, Carlson’s argument over the cause behind the witch trials appears stronger. The William and Mary Quarterly, 65.3 (2008): 483-488. It is widely agreed that instances of planted evidence were common. Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Print. Whenever the women were hanged, their properties were either given to the previous owner or to the next of kin. The village itself had a noticeable social divide that was exacerbated by a rivalry between its two leading families—the well-heeled Porters, who had strong connections with Salem Town’s wealthy merchants, and the Putnams, who sought greater autonomy for the village and were the standard-bearers for the less-prosperous farm families. Conspiracy and individual greed are other factors that reportedly contributed to the emergence and escalation of witch trials. Not everyone agrees with this theory though. The result was not just personal discomfort but increasing crop failures. Besides this, conspiracy and the need for revenge made some individuals to accuse others wrongly. Kamensky Jane. ANALYSIS OF EXISTING AND PROPOSED INTERNET / ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEM, Degradation of “The Sportsman’s Paradise”, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Rabindranath Tagore’s The Home and The World. I knew one of the afflicted persons, who (as I was credibly informed) did try with an egg and a glass to find her future husbands calling; till there came up a coffin, that is, a spectre in likeness of a coffin. Over the following year many trials were held and many people imprisoned. In total, a significant twenty individuals died and nineteen others were executed by being hanged. Download the full version above. Spanos, Nicholas P. and Jack Gottlieb. The very first accusations of witches occurred because these individuals experienced symptoms that had never been seen before. After the girl made this claim though, a young man stood up in the court and explained that the knife was actually his and that he broke it himself the day before, according Winfield S. Nevins in his book Witchcraft in Salem Village in 1692: “There-upon a young man arose in the court and stated that he broke that very knife the previous day and threw away the point. Not only did some of the villagers believe the afflicted girls were lying, but they also felt that the Salem village minister, Reverend Samuel Parris, lied during the trials in order to punish his dissenters and critics. But since Salem had been experiencing a number of hardships at the time, such as disease epidemics, war and political strife, it wasn’t hard to convince some of the villagers that witches were to blame for their misfortune. Print. A psychological theory for its cause is that the young girls who were the accusers had some sort of mental illness or were trying to get attention from others. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Puritan faith placed great emphasis on the need for purity. Ginzburg goes into great, The view that religious beliefs were behind the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 is predominantly incorrect. Baker also discusses this theory in his book A Storm of Witchcraft: “The 1680s and 1690s were part of the Maunder Minimum, the most extreme weather of the Little Ice Age, a period of colder temperatures occurring roughly from 1400 to 1800. Most historians agree though that there were probably many causes behind the Salem Witch Trials, according to Emerson W. Baker in his book A Storm of Witchcraft: “What happened in Salem likely had many causes, and as many responses to those causes…While each book puts forward its own theories, most historians agree that there was no single cause for the witchcraft that started in Salem and spread across the region. Scholars have long noted the connections between the witchcraft outbreak and King William’s War, which raged on Massachusetts’s northern frontier and was responsible for the war hysteria that seems to have been present in Salem Village and throughout Essex County.”. The massive witchcraft hysteria at Salem which resulted in the hanging executions of many was particularly notable for not only its scope, but also for its origins. The article also argued that the absence of any symptoms of gangrene in the “afflicted girls” further debunked this theory as did the lack of convulsive ergotism symptoms in other children in the village, especially given that young children under 10 years of age are particularly susceptible to convulsive ergotism and most of the “afflicted girls” were teens or pre-teens. One theory claims that it all started because the girls in the village were bored. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. In this regard, there were fortune tellers that were presumed to have the ability to foretell future occurrences. Slam Obsessed: Or “Plus Ca Change”: An Introduction. While ergotism may explain the physical symptoms experienced by some of the accusers, it is unlikely that the entirety of the Witch Trials can be explained solely by ergot poisoning. Evidence indicated that a significant percentage of the individuals that were hanged constituted of women. In most instances, they conflicted with the accused and this contributed to their emotional pain and suffering. Cambridge University Press, 1993. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Some historians have also blamed Reverend Samuel Parris for the witch trials, claiming he was the one who suggested to the Salem villagers that there were witches in Salem during a series of foreboding sermons in the winter of 1692, according to Samuel P. Fowler in his book An Account of the Life of Rev. What was it about the circumstances leading up to the trials that made this happen? It was believed that they employed demons to accomplish magical deeds, that they changed from human to animal form or from one human form to another, that animals acted as their “familiar spirits,” and that they rode through the air at night to secret meetings and orgies. Identification of any unusual practice culminated in accusation for witch craft. Later in 1976, another article was published in the same journal refuting Caporeal’s claims, arguing that epidemics of convulsive ergotism have occurred almost exclusively in settlements where the locals suffered from severe vitamin A deficiencies and there was no evidence that Salem residents suffered from such a deficiency, especially since they lived in a small farming and fishing village with plenty of access to vitamin A rich foods like fish and dairy products. 3, While those girls who took on the role of victim likely did not do so entirely to further the political agendas of their parents, it is clear that being afflicted by witches during the Salem Witch Trials provided a unique opportunity for those with little to no political or social power to gain attention and authority overnight. The children of New England have secretly done many things that have been pleasing to the Devil. Looking back with the perspective provided by modern science, some scholars have speculated that the strange behaviour may have resulted from some combination of asthma, encephalitis, Lyme disease, epilepsy, child abuse, delusional psychosis, or convulsive ergotism—the last a disease caused by eating bread or cereal made of rye that has been infected with the fungus ergot, which can elicit vomiting, choking, fits, hallucinations, and the sense of something crawling on one’s skin. Now that’s a proper article! To borrow a phrase from another tragic chapter of Essex County history, Salem offered a ‘perfect storm’ a unique convergence of conditions and events that produced what was by far the largest and most lethal witchcraft episode in American history.”. Fowler, Samuel P. An Account of the Life, Character, & c. of the Rev. Oxford University Press, 2014. The magistrates then had not only a confession but also what they accepted as evidence of the presence of more witches in the community, and hysteria mounted. Utilizing the tools of modern medicine, one can speculate that that the hysteria may have been caused by medical reasons such ergot poisoning, which stems from a fungus called Clavicips purpurea, which can cause hallucinations. The following is a list of these theories and possible causes of the Salem Witch Trials: Conversion disorder is a mental condition in which the sufferer experiences neurological symptoms which may occur due to a psychological conflict. Salem Revisited. Then, gender prejudice disadvantaged the female faction of the community that was wrongly accused of engaging in witchcraft. What we do know is that witches and the Devil were a very real concern to the Salem Villagers, as they were to many colonists. In particular, delusions, mass hypnosis and mass hysteria have been identified as the main causes of the witchcraft hysteria. I believe that the established social class influenced the Salem Witch Trials to some extent, but the series of trials and executions were caused more by general social and economic tension in the colonies during the 17th century. In particular, Aune argues that ergot poisoning was one of the factors that contributed to witch craft trials (770). Other similar medical conditions that historians have proposed could have caused the afflicted girls symptoms include Encephalitis Lethargica, epilepsy, Lyme disease and a toxic weed called Devil’s Trumpet or locoweed but there is little evidence to support these theories either, according to Baker: “Several other diseases have been put forward as possible culprits, ranging from encephalitis and lyme disease to what is known as ‘artic hysteria,’ yet none of these seem to fit, either. Norton, Mary Beth. The theory states that the most active era of witchcraft trials in Europe coincided with a 400-year-long cold period known as the “little ice age.”. And for girls, it was even worse because the restrictions for them were more severe than they were for boys.


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