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Escaping Salem Essay




Example 1

“Escaping Salem will engage every reader Who has fallen under the spell of witchcraft’s history in New England. But beware: still deeper enchantment awaits as Richard Godbeer unfolds his riveting tale of how ordinary men and women struggled to make sense of the wonders and terrors at work in their Connecticut village. L Christine Leigh Heyrman.

His books include the award-winning The Devil\’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England and Sexual Revolution in Early America. The Salem witch-hunt of 1692 was one of the most famous Quants in early American history This was not the only event of this nature occur in New England that year, Escaping Salem tells about the \”other witch-hunt\” of 1 692 that took place in Stamford, Connecticut. The book takes you into the world of early America, shattering the stereotype of early New Englanders as quick to accuse and condemn.


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Richard Godbeer talks about Kate Branch, a seventeen-year-old afflicted by strange visions and blood-chilling ails of pain and trighr_ Branch accused several women of bewitching her, two of them were even put on trial for witchcraft, This book talked about what happened in the courtroom and told about how skeptical the Stamford people were. They didn’t know if the pains and symptoms that Kate Branch had been natural or supernatural. They even questioned whether or not she was faking the symptoms.

The people of Stamford agreed that witches posed a real and serious threat, but proving witchcraft in court was another matter. Because there was no concrete evidence to prove or disprove witchcraft, the Salem court had become a topic of a lot of controversies. If these two women were found guilty they would be hanged so the stakes were extremely high.

This book was a really good book. It had maps, photos and bibliographies. The book was written more like a story than actual facts that happened. am not much of a reader and it takes a lot to catch my attention and keep it. This book did just that!

 

Example 2 – How One Person Can Make a Difference

In Richard Godbeer’s historical novel, Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692, the author discusses the famous Salem Witch Trials and their effect on New England during this time period. Richard Godbeer explains to his readers the social and judicial differences throughout New England starting in Salem, Massachusetts and ending in Stamford, Connecticut. He teaches the reader to not judge this time period by what happened in Salem, but rather to open the readers’ eyes to the thinking and social pressures of the time.

In Godbeer’s eyes, the stories of the Salem Witch Trials did not represent the thinking, attitudes, and judgment towards people in the whole New England territory. The author uses stories of the people, processes of the government, and the witchcraft of the so-called “witches.” He begins by telling a story of an innocent little girl, a ploy meant to grab the reader’s attention and to create interest for the rest of the book.

Though Godbeer’s scheme works, he also shows the human side of the citizens and their ability to be mistaken. Godbeer’s position of the witch trials in Stamford during the sixteenth century is that society presents itself in a more respectful manner as opposed to the trials in Salem. However, his social sense is skewed because society reflects the same behaviors as those in Salem. The difference is one man.

William Jones is the person that should be credited for keeping control of the witch situation in Stamford. He controls government policies helping him retain order and give a fair trial to all involved. William Jones calms the people by giving the people a trial to accuse women of witchcraft while allowing the accused the right to defend them and he enforces the law and policies required for a trial. The novel begins with a story about a young girl, named Katherine Branch, who is very ill. Kate was a servant for the Wescots, an upper-level class family who have taken Kate in at the death of her parents. Kate becomes what many believe is possessed due to witchcraft.

Many different people try to help Kate as she deals with her fits. Religious leaders come to try and cast out the demons, midwifes come to care for her health, and neighbors take turns watching and helping the Wescot family watch over Kate. During specific episodes that she faces, she reveals to others the specific women who had cast her into the state. Godbeer states that, “Kate named five women who specters she conversed with that night: Elizabeth Clawson, Mercy Disborough, Goody Miller, the little girl, and her mother.” These women including the little girl, Hannah Harvey; her mother, Mary Harvey; as well as her grandmother, Mary Staples, and many more that were mentioned, all had previous witchcraft rumours spread about them throughout Stamford.

The stereotypes and judgments made about these types of women reflect the town’s action towards them. Godbeer uses this social behaviour to represent the thinking of this time period. He describes the usual way of dealing with these types of situations. After Kate names her attackers, stories begin to arise about other signs seen by people of their witchcraft. These stories do not produce with them any evidence; however, the tales begin to spread causing hostility toward the accused women. These accusations eventually lead to Daniel Wescot’s movement to the court justice system.

Hannah and Mary Harvey, Mary Staples, Elizabeth Clawson, Mercy Disborough, and Goody Miller are all acquitted for their charges. Godbeer explains, “These acquittals doubtless pleased the accused and their supporters, but others were horrified.” The victory for the defendants proved to show social injustice to the people of Stamford.

This causes more problems between those who are protecting and those who are hurting. This distinction is thought to be a spiritual conflict between the beliefs of Christians. Godbeer again shows the culture of Christian community, which is why witchcraft is an important problem during this time. As Godbeer later explains, “Elizabeth Seager’s and Katherine Harrison’s survival dealt a heavy blow to public trust in the legal system and its willingness to protect settlers from witches.” This lack of “trust” in the government made keeping the peace a difficult task.

However, one man is able to contain order. Godbeer presents his data about the trial through the viewpoint of the judge, William Jones. Jones runs the government’s court in a fair and lawful system. He first researches other witch trials and composes structure for his future witch trial. Godbeer is impressed by Jones’ philosophy of, “…two sets of requirements: one for arresting and examining someone suspected of witchcraft, the other for convicting and hanging an indicted witch.” After these regulations are in place, then Jones begins to create criteria for guilty and not-guilty verdicts.

He creates grounds for which the accused had to qualify for in order to be detained or questioned in court. These standards make the prosecutors present some sort of evidence or reasonable cause. This is another example of the thought process that William Jones had in order to prevent a disaster like Salem.

Due to the fact that this case investigates witchcraft, there is no hard evidence to support any claims of someone practicing witchcraft. With this dilemma placed before the magistrates, the jury is forced to make its decision based on the witness accounts of what happened. These accounts, especially dealing with witchcraft, are difficult to find the truth. After Mercy Desborough is found guilty of witchcraft and Goody Clawson is found not guilty, Stamford stands in amazement. With the hearings in Salem, the belief that anyone accused of witchcraft would be found guilty is on the minds of the people of Stamford. The lack of evidence bothered Jones and even made him question his jury about their decisions.

Though Jones does not believe that the verdict is correct, he does believe that the verdict was fair. Jones did not show favouritism to either side. William Jones cares for the accused witches as human beings and tries to refuse the stereotypes and misunderstandings of the Stamford people. At the same time, he does want to protect the people of Stamford from any threat. The just trial hits a problem when Diborough is awaiting her death penalty. A petition is signed to overturn the verdict because of a jury substitution. Mercy Diborough is eventually released due to a technicality in the jury system.

The way that Godbeer describes the long process of the trial shows his dedication in giving the reader everything to make an informed opinion on the trial. To Godbeer’s fault, he does not compare the different judgment philosophies. He does, however, show Jones’ fairness to all parties, which contrasts Salem’s courts.

Godbeer attempts to prove to the reader that society is the difference between the happenings in Salem and the happenings in Stamford. Godbeer overlooks the true difference between the situations, one man. William Jones creates a sense of fairness and civil actions to solve the problem placed in front of him.

Godbeer’s style sparks interest in the reader, but it also reveals many details that create an unrealistic portrait of today’s society. He does organize his research chronologically and methodically, which makes it become an intriguing novel to all readers. Godbeer does a fair job in providing some evidence for his position. The problem is that he is trying to prove society’s attitudes by inferring what is said and how Stamford would react to every new development.

This stance is difficult to prove much like the testimonies of those who accuse of witchcraft. If one man can be the difference, then William Jones is the difference in this historical novel, written by Richard Godbeer. If someone wrote a story about your life, would you be the one to make a difference in society?

 

Example 3

In Richard Godbeer’s historical novel, Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692, the author discusses the famous Salem Witch Trials and their effect on New England during this time period. Richard Godbeer explains to his readers the social and judicial differences throughout New England starting in Salem, Massachusetts and ending in Stamford, Connecticut. He teaches the reader to not judge this time period by what happened in Salem, but rather to open the readers’ eyes to the thinking and social pressures of the time.

In Godbeer’s eyes, the stories of the Salem Witch Trials did not represent the thinking, attitudes, and judgment towards people in the whole New England territory. The author uses stories of the people, processes of the government, and the witchcraft of the so-called “witches.” He begins by telling a story of an innocent little girl, a ploy meant to grab the reader’s attention and to create interest for the rest of the book.

Though Godbeer’s scheme works, he also shows the human side of the citizens and their ability to be mistaken. Godbeer’s position of the witch trials in Stamford during the sixteenth century is that society presents itself in a more respectful manner as opposed to the trials in Salem. However, his social sense is skewed because society reflects the same behaviors as those in Salem. The difference is one man.

William Jones is the person that should be credited for keeping control of the witch situation in Stamford. He controls government policies helping him retain order and give a fair trial to all involved. William Jones calms the people by giving the people a trial to accuse women of witchcraft while allowing the accused the right to defend them and he enforces the law and policies required for a trial. The novel begins with a story about a young girl, named Katherine Branch, who is very ill. Kate was a servant for the Wescots, an upper-level class family who have taken Kate in at the death of her parents. Kate becomes what many believe is possessed due to witchcraft.

Many different people try to help Kate as she deals with her fits. Religious leaders come to try and cast out the demons, midwifes come to care for her health, and neighbours take turns watching and helping the Wescot family watch over Kate. During specific episodes that she faces, she reveals to others the specific women who had cast her into the state. Godbeer states that, “Kate named five women who specters she conversed with that night: Elizabeth Clawson, Mercy Disborough, Goody Miller, the little girl, and her mother.” These women including the little girl, Hannah Harvey; her mother, Mary Harvey; as well as her grandmother, Mary Staples, and many more that were mentioned, all had previous witchcraft rumors spread about them throughout Stamford.

The stereotypes and judgments made about these types of women reflect the town’s action towards them. Godbeer uses this social behavior to represent the thinking of this time period. He describes the usual way of dealing with these types of situations. After Kate names her attackers, stories begin to arise about other signs seen by people of their witchcraft. These stories do not produce with them any evidence; however the tales begin to spread causing hostility toward the accused women. These accusations eventually lead to Daniel Wescot’s movement to the court justice system. Hannah and Mary Harvey, Mary Staples, Elizabeth Clawson, Mercy Disborough, and Goody Miller are all acquitted for their charges. Godbeer explains, “These acquittals doubtless pleased the accused and their supporters, but others were horrified.” The victory for the defendants proved to show social injustice to the people of Stamford.

This causes more problems between those who are protecting and those who are hurting. This distinction is thought to be a spiritual conflict between the beliefs of Christians. Godbeer again shows the culture of Christian community, which is why witchcraft is an important problem during this time. As Godbeer later explains, “Elizabeth Seager’s and Katherine Harrison’s survival dealt a heavy blow to public trust in the legal system and its willingness to protect settlers from witches.” This lack of “trust” in the government made keeping the peace a difficult task.

However, one man is able to contain order. Godbeer presents his data about the trial through the viewpoint of the judge, William Jones. Jones runs the government’s court in a fair and lawful system. He first researches other witch trials and composes structure for his future witch trial. Godbeer is impressed by Jones’ philosophy of, “…two sets of requirements: one for arresting and examining someone suspected of witchcraft, the other for convicting and hanging an indicted witch.” After these regulations are in place, then Jones begins to create criteria for guilty and not-guilty verdicts.

He creates grounds for which the accused had to qualify for in order to be detained or questioned in court. These standards make the prosecutors present some sort of evidence or reasonable cause. This is another example of the thought process that William Jones had in order to prevent a disaster like Salem.

Due to the fact that this case investigates witchcraft, there is no hard evidence to support any claims of someone practicing witchcraft. With this dilemma placed before the magistrates, the jury is forced to make its decision based on the witness accounts of what happened. These accounts, especially dealing with witchcraft, are difficult to find the truth. After Mercy Disborough is found guilty of witchcraft and Goody Clawson is found not guilty, Stamford stands in amazement. With the hearings in Salem, the belief that anyone accused of witchcraft would be found guilty is on the minds of the people of Stamford. The lack of evidence bothered Jones and even made him question his jury about their decisions.

Though Jones does not believe that the verdict is correct, he does believe that the verdict was fair. Jones did not show favoritism to either side. William Jones cares for the accused witches as human beings and tries to refuse the stereotypes and misunderstandings of the Stamford people.

At the same time, he does want to protect the people of Stamford from any threat. The just trial hits a problem when Diborough is awaiting her death penalty. A petition is signed to overturn the verdict because of a jury substitution. Mercy Diborough is eventually released due to a technicality in the jury system.

The way that Godbeer describes the long process of the trial, shows his dedication in giving the reader everything to make an informed opinion on the trial. To Godbeer’s fault, he does not compare the different judgment philosophies. He does, however, show Jones’ fairness to all parties, which contrasts Salem’s courts. Godbeer attempts to prove to the reader that society is the difference between the happenings in Salem and the happenings in Stamford. Godbeer overlooks the true difference between the situations, one man. William Jones creates a sense of fairness and civil actions to solve the problem placed in front of him.

Godbeer’s style sparks interest in the reader, but it also reveals many details that create an unrealistic portrait to today’s society. He does organize his research chronologically and methodically, which makes it become an intriguing novel to all readers. Godbeer does a fair job in providing some evidence for his position.

The problem is that he is trying to prove society’s attitudes by inferring what is said and how Stamford would react to every new development. This stance is difficult to prove much like the testimonies of those who accuse of witchcraft. If one man can be the difference, then William Jones is the difference in this historical novel, written by Richard Godbeer. If someone wrote a story about your life, would you be the one to make a difference in society?

I had always believed that trials were thrown together to just convict but you can see that there was definitely more effort needed to convict someone. The biggest problem I had with the book is that it often reads more like a textbook until the last chapter when the author interjects more of his thoughts and conclusions.

The book is using public documents so there are some holes in the story that Godbeer tries to fill. Overall, it provides an interesting glimpse into the late 1600s court system and witch hysteria. In ways, it reminds me of the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Although many of the early settlers to the New World were attempting to escape religious persecution in Europe, they still brought some of the same thoughts with them. Among those beliefs were the ideas of witchcraft and using its powers to “get even” with those who crossed them. Those ideas culminated in the witch hunts and trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Yet, that wasn’t the only place they occurred. Other towns held similar trials, even though not on the scale of those in Salem. One such place was Stamford, Connecticut, as shown in this book.

Godbeer studied actual documents and trial transcripts to learn the dynamics behind the witch hunts and relates those findings to the reader. Godbeer shows that much of what was previously believed about the witch hunts is highly exaggerated. It wasn’t a mass execution as the judges were very careful not to take the accusations lightly. In fact, they did everything they could to sway the jury to find the plaintiffs innocent of the charges. He combines narrative and historical writing to relate the events to the reader. It’s very well written and the reader will come away with a clear sense of what actually transpired.

Godbeer notes that for “every useful piece of information that historians unearth, there remain many questions that cannot be answered” (p. 130). Such comments suggest to me that when archivists prepare guides to such records that they might comment on the gaps, omissions, and other problems they see with such sources. Sometimes archivists seem intent, in their finding aids, to write promotional pieces in order to attract researchers into their repository. Might this be like the biographer who becomes too enamored with his or her subject in the field, losing a balanced perspective about the individual whose life is being analyzed?

This often happens in the field of ethnographers and it can contaminate the study. However daunting it may be in terms of time and energies expended, archivists when they prepare such finding aids need to be conversant with how researchers have used such records and the insights such uses offer for describing them in more effective ways. This requires that they commit some time to staying current with the scholarly and other literature on the topics represented in their institutional missions and in their holdings. This is not a new idea, but it is one that has not received as much attention as it deserves.

In Escaping Salem, Godbeer seems very good at producing a straightforward narrative of the events leading to the witch trials that take into account what people believed about the supernatural and how such belief might affect what they said or accepted as said by others. This book seems to be a model of historical prose, approachable by both scholar and a more public audience. He helps us see that these were not ignorant backward people but that the New Englanders were “clearly committed to a process of empirical verification that we might perhaps characterize as scientific supernaturalism” (p. 42).

Godbeer indicates that most historians writing about the infamous witch trials have tried to be objective, but that his “book seeks to recreate the world in which the people of Stamford and Compo lived by giving them voice, avoiding the deliberate self-distancing inherent in most scholarly analysis” (p. 143). While the accusations of children begin each episode, it is the action of the adults in the households of the afflicted and in the churches and courts that determined the experiences of each community.

Godbeer clearly relates what was at stake in episodes of witch fears. The trial of a witch involved the whole community. As neighbors served as watchers over Kate Branch they became potential court witnesses. The failure to convict and execute true witches left those who testified against an acquitted witch at risk for “terrible revenge” (p. 10). To convict an accused witch, Puritans relied not on simple accusations but “careful observation and experimentation” of claims made by the victim and by witnesses: a system that Godbeer calls “scientific supernaturalism” (p. 42).

It was the deliberate use of this traditional approach by magistrates that ultimately saved Stamford from becoming a Salem in 1692. Trials also had a political dimension as the law was sometimes at odds with community notions of guilt and of justice. Other earlier witchcraft exonerations had the angered communities convinced that the accused was in fact a witch. As those acquitted returned to their homes they met mistrust and even violence at the hands of horrified neighbors. The courts knew they had to move with certainty but also cautiously.

 

Example 4

The Other Witch Hunt of 1692 American Economic and Social History September 26, 2012 The seventeenth century was full of challenges; political, social, and economic. Across the board individuals struggled to live, although the conditions had much improved from the beginning of the colonies. Women in particular had a difficult time fitting into this patriarchal society. Women were defined by men and were seen as an accessory to men. In the colony of New England women were learning how to have a silent voice, while still maintaining the proper role of time.

The way women were seen by men, who ran the colony, and the way men thought, not only about women, but also about the world would sculpt the society and the eventual trials of witches. Escaping Salem by Richard Godbeer illustrates the diverse roles that women played in New England during an eventful witch trial of 1692. Women and the Enlightenment thought influenced the outcome of the Katherine Branch witch trial. Although the book is focused mainly on female characters their descriptions were based of their male counterparts.

Godbeer writes to describe Abigail Wescot, “Abigail’s husband Daniel, who at forty-nine her senior by just over a decade, has become a leading figure in the town…That their neighbors recognized Daniel’s qualities was a source of much pleasure to Abigail. ” (p. 14) Using her husband to describe her age as well as her likes and dislikes shows how a women is an extension of her husband rather than an individual. Daniel Wescot does play a large role in the story of Kate and her accusations of witchcraft.

Throughout the seventeenth century, women continue to be hidden by their husbands or father. Towards the end of the century women began to allow their private political views to be shared publicly, through religious writings. Although still taboo was the opposing view of their husbands. Having a lack of identity was not the only problem women faced in the 17th century. Seeing as the accused witches were primarily women, the acquisitions can be seen as anit-woman. Many of the accusers were women themselves; however they had a strong male hand pushing them towards the eventual accused.

Although in this case (Kate Branch) the Enlightenment thought directly influenced the process of the trail, still the testimony of the women involved held less value than that of a man. Any woman seen challenging the thought of a man was at a greater risk of being accused of witchcraft. Daniel Wescot and other men describe incidents involving Goody Disborough and Elizabeth Clawson.

These events started with an argument between a man and a woman; the man later accused the women of cursing livestock, children, or themselves by witchcraft. Godbeer, 2005) The reason that women were accused was that they disagreed with a man’s point of view. Sadly enlightenment thought did not enlighten the thought that women were intellectually equal to men. The Enlightenment was primarily a period of intellectual growth, steaming from science to free thought. Science and the judicial system seem to be on opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, in Escaping Salem however that is disproven. Science is all based on evidence similar to the judicial system.

New England’s court system may not have been as advanced as our Supreme Court is now but they still used evidence to prosecute or unfortunately persecute. Stamford’s court systems require two eyewitnesses to ever event used to convict. (Godbeer, 2005) Similarly science must have an outcome happen multiple times for it to be considered valid. American Enlightenment focused on religious tolerance and democracy. The use of a court to try the accused witches is another aspect of how Enlightenment shaped the outcome for witches.

Unlike in Salem where a large number of witches were burned at the stake, the Stamford trials had a significantly less amount of witches burned due to the evidence-based court trials. The court system was no place for the ideas of men; it was based solely on facts and proof. Another key entity in Enlightenment thought was free thinkers, many of which are well known. What some struggle to realize is everyone took part in free thinking. Thinking freely seems harmless; but what about those who thought freely about witches?

Throughout Escaping Salem Godbeer suggests that individuals who were accused of witchcraft asked for it. The way that the women would walk down the street and the way they spoke to respected leaders in society, as mentioned above with the confrontation with Daniel Wescot, both are examples of how women especially Goody Disborough supposedly asked for an accusation. Free thinking of the Enlightenment, which can be linked to the freedom of speech that the United States, allowed individuals to speak out about the supposed witchcraft without fear of persecution.

The outcome of Kate Branch’s trial is irrelevant. Women during the 1600s were seen as fragile and could not manage without a man. Free thinking, fragility, and an anit-women idea were major contributors to the witch trials, both how they were processed and why they started in the first place. Women may have been seen as insignificant by men, but their role in the trials was irrefutable. Women’s words convicted and men’s thoughts of women persecuted. References Godbeer, R. (2005). Escaping Salem: The other witch hunt of 1692. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

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