History 332

Salem Repossessed:  Contrasting perspectives and analyses

  • Forum: Salem Repossessed, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series 65.3 (July 2008), 391-534.  pdf
  • Jane Kamensky, “Salem Obsessed; Or, Plus Ça Change, An Introduction,” 391-400.  JSTOR
  • Margo Burns and Bernard Rosenthal, “Examination of the Records of the Salem Witch Trials,” 401-422.  JSTOR
  • Richard Latner, “Salem Witchcraft, Factionalism, and Social Change Reconsidered: Were Salem's Witch-Hunters Modernization's Failures?” 423-448.  JSTOR
  • Benjamin C. Ray, “The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village,” 449-478.  JSTOR
    • Benjamin C. Ray, Supplemental Interactive Map.  OIEAHC
  • John Demos, “What Goes around Comes around,” 479-482.  JSTOR
  • Mary Beth Norton, “Essex County Witchcraft,” 483-488.  JSTOR
  • Carol F. Karlsen, “Salem Revisited,” 489-494.  JSTOR
  • Sarah Rivett, “Our Salem, Our Selves,” 495-502.  JSTOR
  • Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, “‘Salem Possessed’ in Retrospect,” 503-534.  JSTOR

Further reading (crafting a thesis and argument):

  • Mary Beth Norton, “George Burroughs and the Girls from Casco: The Maine Roots of Salem Witchcraft,” Maine History 40.4 (Winter 2001-2002), 259-277.  e-Reserve


  • The WMQ forum is composed of an introductory essay, three essays, four comments, and a response by the authors.  How do you think the Forum was created?  Did the idea for the forum come first?  Did the editors approach scholars who were working on Salem?  Why are the 3 essays and the 4 comments presented in that order?
  • As you read each essay, what do you find of value or of most value, either in terms of understanding Salem, or as a methodology and analysis that you might pursue in your own research?  What do you question (or what did not persuade you), either as a methodology or an analysis?
  • Taken together, what do you make of the differing perspectives and values or concerns of this collection of eleven historians?  How do their perspectives shape their assessments of Salem Possessed, both explicitly and implicitly?  Do these essays (and the previous historiography, post-1974, to which they refer) affect or alter your assessment of Boyer and Nissenbaum's analysis?  If so, how, and to what extent?  If not, why not?

Norton, “George Burroughs and the Girls from Casco”:

  • NOTE: Burroughs was among the minority of men who were accused and convicted of witchcraft. His accusers on the other hand matched the profile of many of the “victims” of witchcraft.
  • In what ways is Norton’s account a gendered account? What do the experiences (and the accusations) of the three young women suggest about women’s place in late seventeenth-century New England?
  • How does her argument that the accusations against Burroughs (and their source in the Maine Indian Wars) created the pivotal moment in the Salem witchcraft hysteria affect Boyer and Nissenbaum’s thesis?
  • How does Norton’s account both enhance and alter our understanding of witchcraft as a community phenomenon?