Historiography of the Salem Witch Trials Essay

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Pages: 11

The changing historiography of the Salem Witch Persecutions of 1692. How current/contemporary and historical interpretations of this event reflect the changing nature of historiography.

The number of different interpretations of the Salem Witch Trials illustrates that historiography is ever changing. The historians, Hale, Starkey, Upham, Boyer and Nissenbaum, Caporal, Norton and Mattosian have all been fascinated by the trials in one way or another because they have all attempted to prove or disprove certain elements about the trials. By analysing their augments about the causes of the Salem Witch Crisis, it is evident that this historical event can be examined from a range of different perspectives and interpreted in a range of
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But for Starkey the fascination of the trials lies in the community's reaction to the girls. Starkey explains that the people in Salem whose natural impulses had long been repressed by the severity if their beliefs, and whose security has been undermined by anxiety and terror, finally demanded their catharsis through the opportunity the girls gave to them#. However Starkey's interpretation of the girls suffering from hysteria has been repeatedly criticised by historian's especially controversial revisionist historian Chadwick Hansen introduce. In his book Witchcraft at Salem#, Hansen uses the term ‘hysteria' in a stricter, more clinical sense of being mentally ill. He insisted that witchcraft really was practiced in Salem and that several of the executed were practicing witches. The girls "symptoms were psychogenic, occasioned by guilt at practicing fortune-telling at their secret meetings"# according to Hansen. This mental illness was catching and the witnesses and majority of the confessors became hysterics as a consequence of their fear of witchcraft#. elaborate on catching But there is a certain problem with this theory, which Linda Corporal introduce. "Most modern accounts of the beginnings of Salem witchcraft being with Parris's Barbados slave Tituba, instructing the minister's daughter and niece, as well as some other girls in the neighbourhood