- Publisher: University of Virginia
- Available in: Cloth, Ebook
- ISBN: 9780813937083
- Published: May 5, 2015
“The result of a perfect storm of factors that culminated in a great moral catastrophe, the Salem witch trials of 1692 took a breathtaking toll on the young English colony of Massachusetts. Over 150 people were imprisoned, and nineteen men and women, including a minister, were executed by hanging. The colonial government, which was responsible for initiating the trials, eventually repudiated the entire affair as a great “delusion of the Devil.”
In Satan and Salem, Benjamin Ray looks beyond single-factor interpretations to offer a far more nuanced view of why the Salem witch-hunt spiraled out of control. Rather than assigning blame to a single perpetrator, Ray assembles portraits of several major characters, each of whom had complex motives for accusing his or her neighbors. In this way, he reveals how religious, social, political, and legal factors all played a role in the drama. Ray’s historical database of court records, documents, and maps yields a unique analysis of the geographic spread of accusations and trials, ultimately showing how the witch-hunt resulted in the execution of so many people—far more than any comparable episode on this side of the Atlantic.
In addition to the print volume, Satan and Salem will also be available as a linked e-book offering the reader the opportunity to investigate firsthand the primary sources and maps on which Ray’s groundbreaking argument rests.” —From the publisher
“The unmistakable achievement of this book is Benjamin Ray’s close reading of court records, which has enabled him to correct a host of assertions made by others and to offer, in their place, a persuasive reinterpretation of whys and whens.” —David D. Hall, Harvard University
“Benjamin Ray is one of the leading scholars of Salem witchcraft. His knowledge of the field is deep and extensive, and he has combed the archives in pursuit of new information about the outbreak. Satan and Salem is a leading work in the field that will appeal to both professional historians and those interested in the occult and religion.” —Richard B. Latner, Professor Emeritus, Tulane University
“At least once a generation a scholar promises to give the final word on the origins and course of the 1692 Salem witchcraft outbreak. Ben Ray’s Satan and Salem is a book that finally delivers on that ambitious claim. By combining shrewd analysis of newly transcribed and discovered documents, a corrected timeline of events, and a truly broad consideration of the religious, social, and political context for the outbreak, Ray makes us sympathetic to not only the tragedy of Salem but the complex world that produced it.” —Gretchen A. Adams, Texas Tech University, author of The Specter of Salem: Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America
About the author
Benjamin C. Ray is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the Director of the award-winning Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and an associate editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt.