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Salem Witchcraft Trials Summary

In 1641, Massachusetts Body of Liberties made witchcraft a capital crime. The Salem witch trials took place in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693 in which more than two hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft. During the trial, nineteen people were convicted and executed for practicing witchcraft and many people were incarcerated. Later, the authorities admitted the trials were false and remunerated the families of the executed. Multiple factors contributed in carrying out the witch trials (“Salem Witch Trials – Facts & Summary”).

  1. The setting of Salem Village, a small, poor farming society with about five hundred people was located ten miles from Massachusetts Bay (“Salem | Massachusetts, United States”)
  2. Founders and settler of the village. The Salem village was settled by Puritans and there were also some tribes of Indians living among them (“History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony”)
  3. The arrival of Puritans in Salem. A great number of Puritans came during the Great Puritan Migration by the Massachusetts Bay Company. Some of the Puritans settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and those who could not settle in the colony they settled in the vicinity (“History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony”).
  4. March 4, 1629, charter according to which the village engaged in trade in New England and Puritans began to construct their permanent settlement (“History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony”).
  5. Holy Mission of Puritans in Salem. Puritans preached Christianity to the Native-Americans (“History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony”)
  6. Influence of the Puritans on the Government of the village. Puritans were highly authoritative. All the policies of the government were according to the Puritan’s doctrines. A person could not be in a government unless he was a Puritan (Religious Influences in Salem Village).
  7. Witchcraft accusation was employed by Puritans to prop up their own interests. Puritans would eliminate threats to their rule in the village by accusing those who were deemed potential threats to their supremacy (Reed).
  8. Christian society and belief in Supernatural powers in the Seventeenth century. The people of seventeenth-century Salem were extremely superstitious. The Puritans had instilled in the minds of the people that the devil continually plots against them and the only way to be safe is to practice their religion with dedication (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”).
    1. European colonists brought beliefs about witchcraft from their homeland where they had tried and executed several witches for performing witchcraft (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”).
    2. Witch hunting in Europe: Switzerland, western Germany, France, and northern Italy. 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed for witchcraft from 1400 to 1782 (Guilford and Guilford).
    3. Economic and social factors that resulted in European witch hunting (HEIDWP11-2016.Pdf)
  9. Belief in Witch Craft and belief in the presence of the Evil forces in the community. Several young girls claimed to haunted by Satan. In the superstitious society, the belief in supernatural gave witches the power to injure others in the society (“Salem Witch Trials – Facts & Summary”).
  10. Massachusetts Body of Liberties made witchcraft a capital crime. It said that the person who practices witchcraft commits blasphemy, hence, he must be hanged (1641: Massachusetts Body of Liberties – Online Library of Liberty)
  11. Need to strengthen the village against arbitrary government. The village was newly settled community and there was a need to establish a strong government (1641: Massachusetts Body of Liberties – Online Library of Liberty).
    1. Need to strengthen the church to strengthen the hold on the people. The church had a deep connection with the government, therefore to strengthen the government, the church was also needed to be strengthened (Reed).
  12. Clauses of the law about the supernatural activities and punishment for practicing witchcraft. The English law had several clauses that particularly addressed the matter of witchcraft and its punishment (1641: Massachusetts Body of Liberties – Online Library of Liberty).
  13. Conditions in the late seventeenth-century colony of Salem that contributed in the witch trials to take place (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”)
  14. Economic Conditions: The economy was flourishing and there were many economic changes were taking place. The prospered people found Puritan values threatening to their wealth (“Salem Witch Trials”)
  15. Social Conditions: Life of teenage girls and prevalent family conflicts (Societal Aspects)
  16. Political Conditions: there were two political groups. One group wanted to form Salem Village and separation from Salem village, and the other group wanted to keep Salem as it was (Political Aspects).
  17. Religion in Salem: strict, influential Puritan lifestyle (Religious Aspects).
  18. The conflict between two major families in Salem (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”).
  19. Porter, the wealthy merchants. They had strong connections in the village (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”).
  20. Putnam, the standard-bearers for the weak families in the Village. They sought greater autonomy for the people of the village (“Salem Witch Trials | History & Causes”).
  21. The pastor, Samuel Parris and his role in dividing the society into two factions(“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”)
  22. Two young girls, Betty and Abigail, began to have fits of hysteria in January 1692. They made odd sounds, screamed, threw things at the people who would come close to them, felt pinching and biting sensations, and contorted their bodies (“Salem | Massachusetts, United States”).
  23. Local doctor could not understand the condition and blamed the supernatural for the condition of the girls (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”)
  24. Three Witches were identified. They belonged to the weak class of the society so they could not protect themselves (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”)
  25. Tituba, Parris’ slave (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”).
  26. Sarah Good, an irritable beggar (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”).
  27. Sarah Osborn, an ill old woman who was spurned for her romantic relationship with a servant (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”).
  28. The Trial of the witchcrafts began on 27 May 1692. The court consisted of seven judges and was presided over by William Stoughton. The court sentenced nineteen people to death by hanging them on Gallows Hill, a seventy-one-year-old man was stoned to death and about two hundred individuals were accused of witchcraft. (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials”)
  29. The aftermath of the trials. In 1697, one of the judges of the trial court acknowledged his own ere in the proceedings. In 1702, the trials were declared unlawful by the General Court and the convicted individuals were pardoned in 1711.



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