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In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
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In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  847 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 - Religion - Theology
Paperback, 436 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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May 23, 2010 Milli rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
One of the most detailed accounts of the Salem Witch Trials I have ever read. Norton makes an interesting case, combining the fear of Indian raids from the outside with the internal fear of Satan and witchcraft within Essex County. One could only imagine such an environment; surrounded in fear from the inside and out.

I have to admit, I didn't finish reading this book. Norton includes some great evidence and primary sources from Cotton Mather and other well-known players in the trials. However,
Aug 07, 2007 Melissa rated it it was ok
An interesting subject, but after a while reading this book felt more like a chore than a pleasure. The author's a good historian but a mediocre storyteller; Norton never manages to tap into the human drama of the story and thus creates more of a dry catalogue of events than an actual narrative.
Feb 29, 2008 Jays rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I really wanted to rank this higher, and am almost ashamed that I can't. I'm a history nerd, love colonial history, and a total dork about community-wide paranoia and I still couldn't get past how dry this book got at times. The author is one of the foremost writers on this time period and subject and while she takes a truly interesting look at the outside influences playing into the paranoia of Salem and environs, her over-reliance on written testimony of the time made the book hard to get thro ...more
Dani Japhet
Dec 20, 2015 Dani Japhet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I REALLY enjoyed this book but oh my goodness it was so friggen dense
Jan 23, 2011 John rated it really liked it
I really liked this, but I would hesitate to recommend it to people who rarely read history, I think it might seem dense and hard to plow through. But so interesting, and anyone who is curious about the Salem Witch Trials should check this out. Norton thinks that too much attention has been paid over the years to debating the accusers in the trial (why did they do it, were they just purely faking it all, etc.), and more attention should be paid to the context of the Trials, and what was going on ...more
David Nichols
Nov 12, 2013 David Nichols rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Norton's award-winning IN THE DEVIL'S SNARE offers the most important revision to date of Boyer and Nissenbaum's influential interpretation of the 1692 witch trials, SALEM POSSESSED (1972). Unlike those earlier authors, who characterized the witchcraft crisis as the outgrowth of intra-community conflict, Mary Beth Norton observes that the crisis was a regional event that occurred in the context of a disastrous frontier war and a breakdown in provincial political authority. Many of the accusers i ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars, but it gets an upgrade for being eminently skimable. In this work, Norton looks at a well trudged and puzzled over moment in early American History, the Salem Witch Trials, and approaches it anew. She started by collecting every available source, including counting those persons who had been accused, but not actually tried for witchcraft and by doing so brought previously overlooked connections to light, and didn't discount the men who had also been accused and tried, which past femin ...more
Mike Hankins
Nov 11, 2014 Mike Hankins rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, colonial-us
Great book by a great historian. This is not the normal analysis you hear about the Salem Witch Trials, but it definitely should be high on the list. Norton provides a unique explanation for the whole thing -- that it was mostly about the Indian Wars in Maine that caused severe trauma among the salem (and surrounding) community.

With detailed primary source research, Norton shows how almost all of the accused (and accusers) had ties to the Indian war (which didn't go well and had a number of atro
Jan 11, 2017 John rated it really liked it
Fascinating work of history from Norton, who takes an event that is among the more well-known in early American history (well, at least parts of it), and infuses it with life and meaning through careful scholarship and an attentiveness to social and political context. Norton's main contribution, outside of her careful detailing of the accusations, trials, and executions, is the weaving in of the Indian Wars that occurred in the decades just prior to the witch crisis, as Norton is attempting to e ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
Not a bad book. It covers the trials very thoroughly. The beginning has a lot of quotes! Almost entirely quotes at some points. Misspellings and bad grammar and all! And there is a lot of names. So many different names that's it's hard to remember who is who. But as far as learning about the witch trials and the events around it this is a good book. If you have an interest in the witch trials... you should learn a lot. I did. I personally believe the trials were a farce. Liars and corruption cos ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Vanessa rated it liked it
I loved this book because I got to learn so much about a subject that I've always been really interested in. And it seemed like there was a lot of good information in here, everything was very detailed and in depth. I also loved the argument that the atmosphere of the wars is what really set the stage for the trials to blow up the way they did, I think that makes a lot of sense and it's a perspective I didn't know a lot about before.
However this was still not a fun book to read. It felt like a
Felicity Disco
Sep 24, 2014 Felicity Disco rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, read-in-2015
This book was fascinating, as it presented a larger historical and cultural context for the witch crisis than most narratives do, with an emphasis on the connections between events in Salem and the French and Indian Wars. Highly recommended.
Aug 22, 2016 Karen rated it liked it
Lots of detail. Lots and lots and lots of detail, which would have been easier to follow had the author used a more entertaining writing style. Still, I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in pre-modern American history.
Apr 28, 2013 K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I only have read the free chapters... plan to buy this book!
Apr 29, 2016 Cyndi rated it liked it
Very informative and I learned a lot, but...the author uses the original old english, haphazard wording for direct quotes, without translating. It messes up the flow to be forced to translate.
Ron Charles
"The Crucible," by Arthur Miller, is an illuminating piece of theater. But as one of America's most often produced plays, it casts a spell over our cultural imagination that complicates the historian's task. The factual inaccuracies - composite characters, age changes, the adulterous affair at the center of the play - are, in a sense, the least of it.

Embroiled in the cold-war paranoia of the 1950s, Miller needed a sufficiently distant setting to critique what he called a "perverse manifestation
Äsruþr Cyneaþsson
A detailed analysis of the events surrounding 1692, The focus upon the influence of the Indian Wars distracts Norton at times and other elements are glossed over, or missed, from the account provided here in order to allow a focus upon the psychological impact of the continual conflict. Well written, well researched, and worth a read.
Mary Meiklejohn
Mar 06, 2017 Mary Meiklejohn rated it did not like it
Norton's premise is that the witchcraft panic was actually about fear of Indian attacks, and that the Salem authorities were willing to entertain absurd accusations because, if the devil was at work locally, then it wasn't the authorities' fault that Indians were attacking. However, she only lays out this premise clearly in the afterword, and before that writes tedious alternating chapters about the trials and the Indian Wars, without drawing the parallels. Good idea, very poor execution.
Rick Maloney
Nov 29, 2016 Rick Maloney rated it it was amazing
Mary Beth Norton’s, In the Devil’s Snare, argues the fear of Indian attacks on frontier settlements in colonial New England triggered the 1692 witchcraft crisis. Over a period of eighteen months and through the use of primary sources, Norton explores the idea that early New England settlers had a very real reason to fear the devil. Norton identifies the devil as, “the ‘black man’ whom the afflicted described as resembling a [Wabanakis] Indian” (297). Pre-Enlightened New Englanders believed they ...more
Apr 20, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
I picked this up back in October, thinking that by the time Halloween rolled around, I could relate some witty and interesting tidbits about why witches wear pointy hats, with fond memories of the witch trial in Monty Python's Holy Grail.

In fact, Norton takes us on a rigorously academic journey, analyzing the social, spiritual, and legal atmosphere that charged Salem and northern New England in the late 1600s. The facts are relatively undisputed: Young girls began have strange "fits" where they
Katherine Addison
Norton's conclusion should have been put at the start, for in it she explains her thesis clearly and concisely--that the witchcraft crisis of 1692 was in large part a reaction to King Philip's War and King William's War--and makes explicit the logic by which her argument works. Both these things would have benefited me greatly if I'd had them up front. She also, in the conclusion, addresses the question of the afflicted girls--sensibly and with attention to nuance.

In the Devil's Snare is a treme
Nicholas Bobbitt
I enjoyed this book despite its assigned nature. The idea that the wars against the Native Americans played a significant role in the Salem Witch Trials was a novel one for me, and I hadn't thought of it that way. The concept that the first few girls at least were not faking their issues was intriguing, as well. Overall, the writing style was a bit dry, but it wasn't that difficult a read.
Jun 08, 2008 Helen rated it it was amazing
Norton's thesis is that the Salem witch trials (which she aptly calls the "witchcraft crisis") were directly related to the two Indian wars, one occuring concurrently, and the other about ten years before. A significant portion of the accusers were in fact refugees from the Maine coast, people who had watched their families killed by Indians, who the Puritans already equated very closely with the devil and devil worship. The forest was the realm of the usually hidden, suddenly striking Indians, ...more
Erin Zelnio
This is a book to be read after obtaining a firm grounding in the basics of the Salem Witch Trials. Specifically, the timeline, the accusers, the accused, the court officials, the colony politics, etc. This absolutely is not an introduction to the subject, obtherwise the reader will become extremely confused.

Norton revisits the Salem Witch Trials, this time examining the relationships between the accusers and accused in the broader context of the Massachusetts Colony, rather than focusing just o
Sep 06, 2013 Jim rated it liked it
Anyone who has been to Salem, MA understands that the famous witch trials of the 1600s is a real part of our country's history. To many, however, it seems ludicrous that people were scared of, and set out to kill those that instilled fear in them. Mary Beth Norton does a fine job of placing the reader into the 1600s and provides understanding as to the paranoia that existed.

Instead of focusing merely on the Witch Trials, Norton provides a history of what lead to the hysteria. She notes the psyc
Sharon Miller
Nov 18, 2014 Sharon Miller rated it really liked it
This intensively researched book really laid out an exquisitely detailed day-by-day account one of American History's most iconic mysteries. It was a bit overwhelming and would not serve well as an introduction to the subject. Even my familiarity with the story did not prepare me for the real-time unfolding of events laid out in black and white. The attention to detail, the wide focus of the larger context of colonial New England, and the reconstructed timeline are all an invaluable addition to ...more
Peter F
Apr 27, 2013 Peter F rated it it was amazing

I have always been intrigued by the Salem witch trials (partly, I'm sure, due in fact to my own ancestral connection to one of the hanged), though my exposure to information regarding this crisis has only ever been through pop culture references (e.g., "The Crucible," American history courses, etc.). So it was with a breath of fresh air that I devoured Norton's tome regarding the 1692 situation.

Mary Beth remains impeccably objective as she chronicles the events leading up to, taking
Aug 04, 2016 Victoria rated it really liked it
An extensively researched history of the Salem Witch Trials by Norton dispels a few other existing theories, including the tainted rye, called "The Ergot Theory". The author extends her search further back in history then some researchers have before to understand the context and ideology that led up to the accusations of witchcraft and then to the executions of several people from the community. She comes to the conclusion that the religious ideology set the stage, then fear from the skirmishes ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Brett rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-hist-american
The Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692 are a morbidly fascinating event in our country's history, a singular occurrence that never fails to interest. It's been looked at many times through different lenses, & a lot of theories on just why the crisis occurred have been very plausibly posited in different works. Reasons from socio-economic structure to the inherent structural misogyny of the era to a kind of hallucination-inducing mildew in the grain all make sense, but this book makes an argumen ...more
Oct 02, 2011 Diana rated it really liked it
I found this to be a great overview of the entire witchcraft crisis in Salem and surrounding areas during the late seventeenth century. One could tell that Norton had done quite a bit of in-depth research into the subject drawing from several first-hand accounts of the series of events. Even centuries later, it is horrifying to think of such a fate being dealt to innocent people because of the false accusations of those around them. Another sad historical instance where people are sent to their ...more
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