Salem Massachusetts has achieved world-wide fame for its witchcraft hysteria between 1692 and 1693. Lasting only about a year, the accusations took the lives of 20 people and created a furor that has rippled into the future. This list of 7 fascinating books about the Salem Witch Trials includes non-fiction and fiction books about the Salem Witch trials. Some of the Salem witch trials historical fiction delves into the lives behind the names – whether the accused or accuser.
Fiction Books About The Salem Witch Trials
Why the interest in a tragic incident that happened 300 years ago? You can thank Arthur Miller’s Crucible for sparking interest in the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials in the mid-20th century.
Now Salem Massachusetts has created a whole tourist industry related to ghost hauntings, witchcraft and spooky things in general culminating in an Halloween spectacular centred around Salem Green.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible in 1953 during the height of the Red Scare, an anti-communist hysteria that hit 1950’s USA. Miller draws parallels between the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials and the experience he is living throw. Miller took lots of liberties with the subject material to create a fictionalised account that was not necessarily historically accurate.
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Kathleen Kent is a descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the women who was hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials. She writes two fiction books about Salem Witch Trials which are interwoven.
In The Heretic’s Daughter, drawing from family folklore, Kent draws a vivid image of the hardscrabble life of the Massachusetts Bay colonists from the perspective of Martha Carrier’s teenage daughter. Although the two have a fraught mother-daughter relationship, they draw closer together as Martha Carrier endures imprisonment and trial.
The Traitor’s Wife by Kathleen Kent is a prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter. The character of Martha Carrier was so well depicted in The Heretic’s Daughter that Kent wanted to present her backstory. You find out what made Martha Carrier such a strong woman (and a square peg in the round hole that was Salem society). This book isn’t historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials themselves but sets the background for what made Martha Carrier an outsider and a target.
I,Tituba, Black Witch of Salem Village by Maryse Conde
I, Tituba is an award-winning novel by Maryse Conde, a writer from Guadelupe. Originally written in French, it has been translated into English.
In this historical fiction, Salem Witch Trials are told from an outsider’s perspective, the only black woman accused of witchcraft. Tituba, is a servant in the household of Samuel Parris, the Puritan clergyman who is credited with starting the witchcraft hysteria. Tituba likely entertained Parris’ daughters and her friends with tales from the Caribbean which the girls probably took and ran with.
One of the best books on the Salem Witch Trials, I, Tituba tells the story from an often forgotten perspective. Tituba gets mentioned in all the non-fiction books about the Salem Witch Trials but then forgotten. She pleads guilty to witchcraft during the trials and is sold off to another family.
A Break With Charity by Anne Rinaldi
What about the girls involved as accusers? In A Break With Charity, the story of accuser Susanna English is told. In this Salem Witch Trials historical fiction book, Susanna just wants to be part of the cool girls who hang out in Samuel Parris’ house lead by Mean Girl Ann Putnam. She’s torn between wanting to be in the group and wanting to tell the elders that its a prank gone wrong. And, Ann Putnam threatens Susanna that if she tattles, Susanna’s parents will get accused as well.
Non-fiction Books About Salem Witch Trials
The historical books about Salem Witch Trials focuses on the different aspects of what made this event a flashpoint at the time and made Salem a must-see destination in Massachusetts. The best books on Salem Witch Trials provide an exhaustive look at the event but they are heavy reading.
The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff
In this well-researched tome, The Witches: Salem 1692, Pulitzer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff takes on the Salem Witch Trials. There are no real “baddies” in this book which takes a nuanced approach to the trials. For example, the accusing girls are children playing games that got out of control. The Salem villagers were an educated lot but everyone in those days believed in witchcraft.
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker
A Storm of Witchcraft, a non-fiction book on the Salem Witch Trials is well-written and well-researched by a college professor. It explains how political and religious events conspired to create the tragic events of the Salem Witch Trials. In many ways was different from other witch hunts in history. For example, the judges in Salem allowed the use of spectral evidence (evidence from visions and dreams) for convictions.
American Witches by Susan Fair
More than just another one of the books about the Salem Witch Trials, American Witches provides a witty incisive and brief history witchcraft in the USA. The Salem Witch Trials may have been the most famous American witchcraft but there were plenty of other accusations of witchcraft on American shores from the early Jamestown settlers to the Native American beliefs.
Then there is also the case of the Second Salem Witchcraft trial where one Christian Scientist (possibly at the behest of Mary Baker Eddy) accused a renegade Christian Scientist of harming her through focussing malignant mental powers on her. The case was dismissed because the Judge said not only could mental harm not be proven but also he had no remedy available even if it was. How do you stop someone from using their alleged mental powers from hurt someone else?!
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