J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

“Storm of Witchcraft” with Emerson W. Baker, 11 Mar.

Tonight, 11 March, the History Camp online discussion series welcomes Emerson W. Baker speaking about the Salem Witch Trials.

Tad Baker wrote Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience, which investigates the key players in the Salem Village crisis and illuminates why the tragedy unfolded as it did.

This books shows how the Puritan government’s attempts to suppress what had taken place only fueled the popular imagination and established the trials as a turning point from Puritan communalism to Yankee independence.

A professor at Salem State University, Baker has also been involved in local efforts to commemorate the trials and executions properly.

One of the earliest historians to recount those trials was Thomas Hutchinson, as part of his history of Massachusetts, but his manuscript remained unpublished when he died. It finally appeared in the 1870s as an article in the New England Historic and Genealogical Register and printed on its own as The Witchcraft Delusion of 1692.

Early on, Hutchinson wrote:
Whilst the tragedy was acting, there were but few people who doubted the hand of the Devil, and fewer that dared to own their doubts.

When the Commissioners went through the town of Boston on their journey to Salem, they stopped at the house of Col. Hutchinson, one of the council, who advised them, before they began any trial, to see if they could not whip the Devil out of the afflicted; but this advice was rejected.
The prospect of being whipped would certainly have raised the cost of making accusations.

Col. Elisha Hutchinson (shown above) was the author’s grandfather. One of the snide critiques of Hutchinson’s history in his time is that he never missed a chance to write about his own ancestors.

Historians have widened the lens considerably since Hutchinson studied the Salem Witch Trials less than a century after they occurred. Lee Wright and Carrie Lund of History Camp will talk about more recent developments with Tad Baker starting at 8:00 P.M. History Camp discussions stream live to the HistoryCamp.org website and the History Camp Facebook page.

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