In 1692, the mostly Puritan town of Salem, in Massachusetts, entered a time of hysteria, commonly known as the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Often, American historians see this event as a transition from “old world thinking” to “enlightenment era thinking.” Historically, accusations and executions for witchcraft has been a global phenomena for hundreds of years. During the Middle Ages in Europe, witchcraft became a moderately common case to be heard by rulers. The most common accusations usually scape-goated people for being ‘evil-doers’ during difficult political or economic times.
Trials for witchcraft were more common in Scotland than in England during the early 16th century. Then in 1590, King James VI of Scotland (Soon to also become King James I of England at the death of Elizabeth I) will promote a new law to find, prosecute and eliminate witchcraft.
In 1597, King James I published “Daemononlogie” which acted as a series of answers to arguments made by critics of witchcraft. In the last thirteen years of James I’s reign, at least 250 persons were executed for the crime of witchcraft, which showed a rise in cases.
The very same ideologies of witchcraft that existed during James I’s reign will go with the colonists who settle Jamestown and New England. Is it any wonder that during uncertain times in the very religious Puritan colony of Massachusetts there would be a witchcraft hysteria that would mirror such events in Europe almost exactly? To understand the background of the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria, we will focus upon the old-world views of this phenomena.
In the document below are some excerpts from James I and from various journals on the subject from England and Scottland. Please use the documents to answer these questions.
Note that not all documents answer every question, you will need to find the ones that apply.
Use full sentences and analysis: explain your thoughts and use evidence. This is a 20 point assignment; make it count!
Some of the documents are primary sources, written in older versions of English. It may be necessary (and encouraged) to look up and define terms you do not know as part of your answers. For instance, what is a “Turkas” or “pilliwinckes” that is mentioned in one of the documents?
DOCUMENT HERE: James I and Witchcraft.pdfPreview the document
Based upon your analysis of the documents, make two posts in the Discussion Board for others to see that explain your analysis of ANY TWO of the below prompts (ie: pick two questions below and make one post for each, your choice). For full credit, reference which documents you are using (basic and informal citing is fine, such as referring to the author, title, or Doc #) to answer the questions you chose.
QUESTION CHOICES (again, pick only two)
1. What are some forms of ‘evil’ that would infect or influence unwary persons (spirits, etc)?
2. What are the sorts of crimes and activities witches were accused of doing?
3. How did the English view of satanic evil in the world influence how they thought of both North America and of natives? In your opinion, how might that view dictate how English settlers interact with natives?
4. What forms of torture was done to force accused witches to confess?
5. Did all medical professionals at the time agree with accusations of witchcraft against certain people they inspected? Give an example from the one document covering this that backs up your answer.
6. Based upon the last document, does the opinion of the author show that the legal system of the 1660’s was moving more towards or away from witchcraft being a legitimate issue for the courts to judge?