The Witches

The Witches

Salem, 1692

Book - 2015
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra analyzes the Salem Witch Trials to offer key insights into the role of women in its events while explaining how its tragedies became possible.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780316200608
Characteristics: xiv, 498 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Salem, 1692


Featured Blogs and Events

The Salem Witch Trials Began on a Leap Day

Did you know the first warrants in the Salem witch trials were issued February 29, 1692? That was 324 years ago—or 81 leap years ago. The era of Britain's settlement in the Americas has given history some excellent works of literature and art. Witches, or the people with strange abilities who made some kind of evil bargain with a darker spirit, have been the villains in many of them. Nonfict… (more)

The Salem Witch Trials Began on a Leap Day

Did you know the first warrants in the Salem witch trials were issued February 29, 1692? That was 324 years ago—or 81 leap years ago. The era of Britain's settlement in the Americas has given history some excellent works of literature and art. Witches, or the idea of people with strange abilities who made some kind of evil bargain with a darker spirit, have been the villains in many of them.… (more)

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VaughanPLMichael Nov 09, 2018

I'm really fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s and try to do as much research on the subject as possible. This ranges from Fiction to Non-fiction, and finding a good non-fiction account of this is hard.

My search continues as this was a slog to get through.

My main issue with this is the language and narrative flow. It reads more like an extended newspaper article than a book. The flow was much too choppy and I just couldn't get into the book.

It was interesting to get an in-depth account of what occurred in the 1690s surrounding the trails, but it wasn't enough to justify the length. I felt this book being more of a chore than a rewarding process.

Mar 14, 2018

Oh-me! Oh-my!.... Hello, darlings! - Let me tell ya - It must have been a living-hell being a citizen residing in Salem, Massachusetts back in 1692. There seemed to be so much finger-pointing and false accusations going on that I'm surprised most of the folks living there didn't high-tail out of that witch-hunting town of crazies and set up home-sweet-home somewhere else.

Feb 28, 2018

Even though nobody was burned at the stake..............

If you are at all interested in reading a very, very detailed account of what events led up to, what inevitably happened at, and the devastating aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, then, Stacy Schiff's well-researched book of these incidents-in-question is sure to be worth your undivided attention.

As Fuzzy_Wuzzy says (2 comments below) - The whole question was - "Which witch is which?"

Feb 25, 2018

The author of The Witches has two challenging tasks: to dig through the layers of legends and theories to find the truth, and to write an easily readable, popular book. It might be impossible to do both at once, but Stacy Schiff does her darnedest. Readers looking for a short, snappy book with a clear narrative and simple causes will be disappointed. The original sources are incomplete, conflicting, and biased; or they have been destroyed by descendants who did not want their family members seen in a bad light. Later generations have twisted the story this way and that, to suit the ideas of their times. (The latest is that the witch hunt was in fact a consciously promoted real estate conspiracy. No.) The Witches will give you enough information to come up with some ideas of your own.

Feb 24, 2018

Back in 1692 - (Amongst all of the chaos, mayhem, and vicious accusations going on in Salem at the time) - There's one question that I'd say must have been on the lips of all the god-fearing "Puritans" living there. And, that question would be - "Which witch is which?"

Even though author, Stacy Schiff's "The Witches" was on the decidedly lengthy side (at 498 pages) - I'd definitely say that this exhaustive, true-account narrative of the Salem witch trials was certainly an intriguing, in-depth look at a very horrific chapter in American history.

This terrifying "real-life" tale was certainly an eye-opening example of blind hysteria, rampant finger-pointing, and religious extremism to the max.

In regards to all of these inhuman witch hunts - I found that one of the most surprising aspects of it all was that these "Puritans" were not peasants - No - They were all very well-educated people - But their actions in this matter certainly said otherwise.

This book also includes 16 pages of historical photographs.

Oct 20, 2017

A informative fun read on what went on during 1692 Salem. Fun for the simple reason of how the first sentence starts the journey. "In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay colony tried fourteen women, five men and two dogs for witchcraft."

Jan 04, 2017

I was so impressed with Schiff's "Cleopatra" that I expected more from this book. It's just as well researched, and for the most part well written. However, even with the list of major characters at the beginning, it's very hard to keep track of who's who, and even the chronology. I have ancestors who, two years before this event, were massacred by the French and Indians in New York, with no mention, in a great deal of reading, about witchcraft. So one reason for reading it was to learn why Salem, also "infested" by French and Indians, became the setting for witchcraft. I didn't learn the answer--it wasn't Schiff's question. I do think her focus on the power manifested during these few months by women and young girls is a valid one. Not a single accusation was against a father or a son, though every other family or social relationship was the target of an accusation. Interestingly, those who accused didn't hang, but those who were accused. And the after effects lasted for generations, even to the present day tourism in Salem. The fact, not trivial, that Massachusetts had the highest literacy rate in the world in 1692, is relevant, as is the fact that the Puritans had very few books to choose among besides the Bible. We don't read the Bible as demonic, but they did. The other relevant fact is that the Puritans, like the Pilgrims, a very different group, left England for New England because of religious persecution. They believed they had to behave a certain way in order to create a successful society. When that began to fall apart, who were they going to blame?

ArapahoeLesley Nov 09, 2016

Not a rip-roaring ride, Witches is still a well written and researched historical treatise. Beginning with a summary, Schiff then dedicates most of the book to the available resources, which is quite surprising how dense it is considering the sources are somewhat limited to court documents and personal diaries. What can be occasionally quite dry, but nonetheless very informative becomes far more interesting when you get to Schiff's concluding chapters where finally her own voice and interpretations are offered.

The sensationalized topic is misleading, we are dealing with Puritans here. It's not exciting but if you like history it's worth a read.

Nov 06, 2016

Interesting book, however, it is too lengthy; the chapters are way too long! Many details could have been omitted to avoid repetition. The book wouldn't be as thick as it is otherwise. Good depiction of history, but there were others that were accused of witchcraft. Ms. Schiff could have skipped some personal details that I would not care about, such as the wife beating. Another cause of the hysteria of the girls was not explored by the author. I fell asleep reading this book several times. Her book, Cleopatra was excellent - one to rave about.

Jul 16, 2016

Very tedious reading. There are interesting historical details, but it is way too wordy. It is hard to get through it, and the only reason I am completing the book is that it was a gift from a family member, so I feel the need to make it to the end.

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