History Of Salem Witch Trials

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Introduction

The Salem Witch Trials were a group of trials and prosecutions in the United States. These trials resulted from the paranoia of townspeople in which two hundred people were accused of witchcraft and nineteen were hanged. The trials took place in colonial Massachusetts over a nearly seven-month period in the years of 1692 and 1693. The Massachusetts colony would eventually admit that the trials were a mistake. They went on to compensate the families that were involved. (Blumberg, J. A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials)

Background and History

During the 14th century in Europe, the belief in supernatural powers, and the belief in the practice of the devil giving witches the power to harm others in exchange for their loyalty and devotion, was common. A witchcraft hysteria had began in Europe starting in the 1300s. It had finally started to fade in the 1600s. The majority of European witch hunts took place in Western Germany, France, and northern Italy. The last known execution for witchcraft in Europe took place in Switzerland in 1782. Thousands of people, most of whom were women, were executed. Likewise, this belief became widespread in colonial New England, even though the belief had began to diminish in Europe.

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New England was settled by religious refugees. They wanted to build a Bible-based society. As such, Salem Village was inhabited by deeply religious, and deeply superstitious, Puritans. In the mid-1600s Salem had divided into two communities, Salem Town and Salem Village. Salem Town was far more prosperous than Salem Village. During the time of the Salem Witch Trials, Salem Village was in the aftermath of a British War with France in the colonies. King Williamr’s War in 1689 had created devastation in parts in the north and resulted in refugees fleeing into the counties of Essex and into Salem Village. The refugees placed more of a strain on the less affluent Salem Village. It also played a role in already existing rivalries. These rivalries were tied to the wealth of the port of Salem and the areas that depended on agriculture. Salem Village and Salem town often had arguments over things such as property lines, grazing rights, and church privileges. Furthermore, there were frequent Native American attacks. (Brooks. History of the Salem Witch Trials)

Salem Village had decided to get their own minister rather than share one with Salem Town. The first two ministers didnt stay. A third stayed for a short period of time, but he left after the church in Salem refused to ordain him. The parish disagreed on Salem Villager’s choice, Samuel Parris, but he became the minister of Salem Village after conflicts over pay and land were resolved. However, the agreement that was reached conflicted with a village resolution which stated it was unlawful for inhabitants of the village to convey land or houses of the Ministry to any person.

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