Rarely is there an event in American history whose intrigue is so intense that there is still a continuing interest 400 some years later after it took place. The Witch Trials and executions which took place in Massachusetts in 1692 is one such of these events and the main factors that started and fueled them were politics, religion, family feuds, economics, and the imaginations and fears of the people (Sutter). The Salem Witch Trials played an important part in American History because it showed the broad social structure of New England at the time, the state of uneasiness of 17th century religion, and it shaped the way of American law and politics. This paper critically analyzes the factors contributing to the Salem Village witchcraft crisis.
Salem Village had a very colorful history before the famous witch trials; it was not exactly known as a calm spot in New England. The main reason was its 600 plus residents were divided into two main parts, those who wanted to separate from Salem Town, and those who did not, what most people don't realize is that Salem Town and Salem Village are two separate identities within the same town. In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts, had split into two diverse areas. The reason for the split was due to a difference in economic status and class. The residents who wanted to separate from Salem Town were located in the western part of Salem Village. The residents of Salem Village tended to be in the realm of poor farmers who made their keep from the goods their farms produced. Those who wanted to remain a part of Salem Town were typically located on the eastern side of Salem Village. The occupants in Salem Town tended to be wealthy merchants with the town centering itself on sea trade. The residents who wished to remain a part of Salem Town were economically tied to its thriving, rich harbors (Sutter).
Factors Contributing to the Salem Village Witchcraft Crisis
The events of 1692 took place during a difficult and confusing period for Salem Village. As part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Salem was under British rule. When the hysteria began, the colony was waiting for a new governor and had no charter to enforce laws. By the time the new governor, William Phips, arrived in Massachusetts, the jails were already filled with alleged witches. To make matters worse, New England towns were under attack by Native Americans and French Canadians (Salem Witch Trials).
Salem Village faced daily challenges closer to home as well. Most families had to support themselves, making their own clothes, planting vegetables, raising meat. Farming was often a painstaking task in the harsh climate and rough, rocky terrain and a drought or flood could ruin a year's harvest. An epidemic of smallpox could kill a family. In a world where people saw the Devil lurking behind every misfortune, it is little wonder they believed evil spirits were at work (Salem Witch ...