In Our Time

BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture, History

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Society & Culture 65
History 16

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas


The Salem Witch Trials

November 26th, 2015

Episode 479 of 515 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the outbreak of witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692-3, centred on Salem, which led to the execution of twenty people, with more dying in prison before or after trial. Some were men, including Giles Corey who died after being pressed with heavy rocks, but the majority were women. At its peak, around 150 people were suspected of witchcraft, including the wife of the governor who had established the trials. Many of the claims of witchcraft arose from personal rivalries in an area known for unrest, but were examined and upheld by the courts at a time of mass hysteria, belief in the devil, fear of attack by Native Americans and religious divisions. With Susan Castillo-Street Harriet Beecher Stowe Professor Emerita of American Studies at King's College London Simon Middleton Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Sheffield And Marion Gibson Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University, Penryn Campus. Producer: Simon Tillotson.