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Were Salem’s Men Witches’ Victims of Politics?

By Gale Courey Toensing

The epidemic of witchcraft hysteria which broke out in Salem, Massachusetts at the end of the 17th century was as virulent as the scourge of smallpox that had decimated the Indigenous Peoples of “New England” several decades earlier. Although reams have been written about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the veil of time has further obscured what was never a very clear story to start off with. But a professor of history at Cornell University has uncovered an intriguing connection between the Salem Witch Trials and the Wabanaki Indians, which adds a political twist to the intersection of genocide, race and colonialism that underlies the events in that small isolated settler, and forms the backdrop of the American experiment.

Dr. Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University and author of In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, shines a new light on the bizarre outbreak of Puritan paranoia that culminated in people hanged, burned or crushed to death by stones. During her research Norton discovered the curious circumstance that – statistically – the Salem witchcraft crisis was more dangerous for men accused of witchcraft than it was for women.

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