Journal Article

“The Salem Witch Mania”: Recent Scholarship and American History Textbooks

Benjamin C. Ray

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 78, issue 1, pages 40-64
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online January 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
“The Salem Witch Mania”: Recent Scholarship and American History Textbooks

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A critical presentation of recent research on the Salem witch trials, this essay contrasts new scholarly findings with outdated accounts in current American history textbooks. The article draws attention to current scholarship that emphasizes the central role of religion in the Salem episode in contrast to past work that focuses on social and political aspects. The new research has significantly changed elements of the traditional textbook narrative and our understanding of some of the episode's central figures. Religious conflict and the fear of Satan's attempt to destroy the local village church now appear to have been the driving forces.

Journal Article.  8690 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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