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The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege [Paperback]

Marilynne K. Roach
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 22 2004
Based on twenty-seven years of original archival research, including the discovery of previously unknown documents, this day-by-day narrative of the hysteria that swept through Salem Village in 1692 and 1693 reveals new connections behind the events, and shows how rapidly a community can descend into bloodthirsty madness. Roach opens her work with chapters on the history of the Puritan colonies of New England, and explains how these people regarded the metaphysical and the supernatural. The account of the days from January 1692 to March 1693 keeps in order the large cast of characters, places events in their correct contexts, and occasionally contradicts earlier assumptions about the gruesome events. The last chapter discusses the remarkable impact of the events, pointing out how the 300th anniversary of the trials made headlines in Japan and Australia.

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Roach's new and exciting book is a marvelous compendium of well-thought-out insights, multiple facts, and little-known details on the events of the infamous 1692 Salem Village witchcraft. Her work, arranged in a day-by-day chronology, allows the reader to visualize how these events began and progressed to become the most massive witchcraft outbreak in America. It is an important addition to the literature of New England witchcraft. (Richard B. Trask, Danvers, Massachusetts Town Archivist )

[A] truly impressive day-by-day compendium on the course of the Salem witchcraft trials. This will be an invaluable aid to the scholarship on this pivotal episode in American history. (William T. La Moy, Editor Peabody Essex Museum Collections )

The most complete day-by-day account of the Salem witch trials ever written. [Roach has created] a fascinating chronicle of the witchcraft episode and its long aftermath, filled with revealing social and psychological detail, accurately and gracefully written. A compelling read. (Benjamin C. Ray, Director, Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive )

This fascinating, deeply researched day-by-day account of the events of 1692 to 1697 is an extraordinarily valuable resource for any student of the Salem witch trials. (Frances Hill, Author of A Delusion of Satan and editor of The Salem Witch Trials Reader )

What an accomplishment! Marilynne Roach tells the story with rare detail and deep understanding. Her scholarship and sensibility make The Salem Witch Trials an invaluable must-have for those interested in the trials and the times. Reading her work is almost like being there. Outstanding. (Alison D'Amario, Director of Education, Salem Witch Museum )

Monumental.... Roach's detailed reference book provides deep insights into the trial years by letting us listen to the voices of everyone involved. (Publishers Weekly )

Presents a detailed chronology of events from January 1, 1692, to January 14, 1697. Drawing on extensive sources, including some recently discovered manuscript material, it provides invaluable basic information in an accessible format that will aid those who are new to the Salem Witch Trials and those who many be revisiting them. (Library Journal )

The well-written text is formatted much like a diary of excerpted, paraphrased, and quoted documentation. (G. Wood, SUNY College at Cortland CHOICE )

Roach worked on this fascinating chronicle more than 25 years. She tells exactly what happened at the time, based on tons of documents and court testimony. (Denver Post )

Marilynne K. Roach's The Salem Witch Trials is representative of this ongoing interest: her "day-by-day chronicle" will find a place on the shelves of researchers and history buffs for whom the fascination of Salem never palls. (Thomas S. Kidd, Baylor University Books and Culture )

Useful, rigorous and historiographically current reference work. (Marc Aronson La Times )

Readers will come away with a much fuller pitcure of who lived in Salem and how they lived...This intriguing book offers an understanding of history that will be helpful to those studying colonial Massachusetts and of course, the notorious trials. (Booklist )

This book is a good reference for understanding why the accusations occured... (Jodelle Greiner Gainesville Daily Register )

About the Author

Marilynne K. Roach, author and illustrator of In the Days of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and former contributor to the Boston Globe, lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, near Boston.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars invaluable resource Oct. 15 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This (sometimes) day-to-day chronicle of the Salem Witch Trials pulls in outside events - such as Indian and French massacres in nearby jurisdictions - to outline what was a very perilous and fearful time for our New England ancestors. It was fascinating to hear Roach tie in accusers who had been deeply traumatized in these attacks with their "visions" of the devil which resembled the attacking tribes.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
121 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! Dec 2 2004
By lee77 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I believe I own every book ever published about the Salem Witch Trials, including some that have been out of print for more than a hundred years. Of course, I like some better than I like others, however, Ms. Roach's book is at the top of my list of favorites. There is an introduction leading up to the witch craze and from there, the author documents, on a day-by-day basis, the events that transpired beginning January 1, 1692, through January 14, 1697. In addition to recording events directly pertaining to the witch madness, the author also includes weather conditions taken from journals maintained by Gov. Winthrop et al., baptisms, etc. which gives one a better perspective of life during the witch hunts. There is also an epilogue listing later events pertaining to the Salem trials through October 31, 2001, when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared all those accused in 1692 innocent of witchcraft.

Reviewing numerous volumes and voluminous papers to produce a readable chronology is a major accomplishment, and THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS is both a scholarly work and an interesting, informative book. It is also a great reference. For example, if I am writing about the accusations of John and Elizabeth Proctor, I am able to quickly find when they were arrested, who testified against them, etc. Additionally, each chapter contains numerous endnotes and there is an extensive bibliography. In fact, every book I own about the Salem trials-except two-are included in the bibliography and I commend Ms. Roach on her thoroughness.

I highly recommend THE SALEM WITH TRIALS, A DAY-BY-DAY CHRONICLE, to anyone interested in the trials, life in Puritan New England, or the history of witchcraft and magic.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs a time travel spell? Sept. 4 2006
By David Pierce - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In preparation for my first visit to the famed 'Witch City' I came across Ms. Roach's HUGE volume. I have always been fascinated by the dark history of Salem, Mass (in fact, I did a big project about it in eighth grade) but I wanted to be quite sure I was on the up and up about everything that went on in 1692 and I was sure that a day-by-day chronicle would be just the prescription. I began reading it thinking that I may be bored as it was very detailed but I was anything BUT bored! This book is truly fascinating and informing. Ms. Roach's style of writing really brought me into the court rooms of 1692 Salem and I was better able to understand what happened then. I highly recommend anyone wanting to know more about the Witch Trials of Salem to buy this book.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing work! Nov. 16 2005
By Kathryn M. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I can't even begin to imagine how much time and effort went into writing this book. Roach created a day to day synopsis of the events surrounding the Salem witch trials for a period of several years, and the bibliography is quite extensive. Not only has this book broadened my horizons in the realm of American history, but it has also raised my own standards for what I expect from any history book, including research I do, myself.

Thank you, Mariilynne K. Roach!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and interesting historic account June 23 2005
By Larry A. Mortsolf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Enjoyed the significant day-by-day format -- easy to follow and shows the progression of the trial hysteria. Good index for finding people involved in the trial.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book first! May 1 2012
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am really pleased that there are so many positive reviews of this book, as I believe that it is the one book you need to read first, if you are ever in a position where you need to study the subject. This book may not answer all the questions, but it will unquestionably give you what you need to detect the mistaken answers you may find in other books.

The Salem Witch incident is one of the most mysterious in the history of 17th century Protestant religion in both America and in Europe. There were cases of supposed witchcraft up to as recently as 1689 (Salem event occurred in 1692), but no similar incident involving this number of people ever happened anywhere else in Protestant Europe or America. The theories about the causes have centered around searching for scapegoats, perverse understanding of Christianity, and mass hysteria. The only one of those theories which have any semblence of credibility is the role of what we now call "hysteria". There are descriptions of symptoms of those affected, such as paralysis and blocking of the esophagus which are precisely described in Freud and Breuer's classic work on hysteria.

The author goes to great pains to avoid theorizing about any underlying causes of how the event started, how it came to an end, or most relevantly, why the outbreak was so virulent. She just presents the facts, largely as the people at that time actually saw them.

The conclusion one tends to draw is that this was a community in high anxiety from possible Indian attacks, with a government in disarray, and an economic slump due to the paralyzed government and squabbles. The accusations were largely done by young women, but they were investigated by civil authorities, not by clerical ones. All the trials were conducted by civil authorities, as were the judges and jury. The clerics were largely on the sidelines, trying with little success to warn that the evidence on which people were being accused and convicted was flawed. Worst of all, the leading cleric for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Increase Mather, the president of Harvard College, was in England when the events broke out. By the time he arrived it was difficult to rein them in.

There are many other excellent books on the subject, but this is the best reference for the details regarding the case, how it started, and why it developed the way it did. Even if you feel no need to read the book from cover to cover, it is a very good reference to consult as you read of events in other books.
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