Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: A Storm of Witchcraft

"All ministers and learned people knew that witches were real and that they had the power to harm."

A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker

This book has been sitting on my must read shelf since the year began. I have read the history of Salem and the Witch trails many times over the years and I still learn something new.  This book is filled to brim with new information.
Many books like to focus on victims, and some even focus on "the afflicted"; those that accused their neighbors of witchcraft.  Professor Baker though goes much farther than that and talks about the judges, the people in power and in particular the two Mathers, Cotton and Increase, the learned ministers at the center of this storm.

The term "A Perfect Storm" gets thrown around a lot, but here it is appropriate.  There was so much going on here that made the witch craze happen here when it was dying out everywhere else.  It really was the last gasp of a dying movement of the Old World in the New World.
It was the start of the end of Pre-American Puritanism.
In this book Salem and 1692 take on a level of cultural impact that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 did in the United Kingdom.

The book is long, 400+ pages, and full of names. But those names belonged to people and those people left others behind.  So Prof. Baker also delves into the impact these witch trials had on the new experiment that would become America.
This is easily one of those books you can read, do a little more research or reading on the subject elsewhere, and then come back to and learn something new still.
If I have one complaint, and that is way too strong of a word, it is that the last chapter was not long enough.  I would have loved to have learned more about the cultural impact of 1692 on modern culture and how it shaped America.  But that would be a complete other book.

Prof. Baker gives us not only a well researched and well-detailed book, he gives us a book that is easy to read and relate to.  There was so much going on back in 1692 that we can relate to today.

The history of Salem is the history of America. The witch trials of 1692 are also part of America; our darker past that some (like the town of Danvers to a degree) would like to forget.

I also listened to the audio book. After listening to interviews with Prof. Baker I kinda wish he had narrated it himself.

You can find Prof. Emerson W. Baker on the web at his faculty page: http://w3.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/ and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/emersonwbaker

You can also read what he says about last year's "The Witch".
He also did an interview at Ben Franklin's World.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 17
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: None or dozens.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: 25 innocent people lost their lives in the errors of 1692.
Best RPG to Emulate it: This is the sort of setting one can easily use in Colonial Gothic.  In fact, I would call this book must reading for any CG player.
Use in WotWQ: Salem Villiage, or at least the popular notions of it, is the model I am basing the town of West Haven on.  The relationship between Salem Villiage and Salem Town will be used as a basis for West Haven and East Haven.  Though where Salem Town embraces their past today (and Salem Villiage is now Danvers, MA), it is West Haven that embraces their past.

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