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The Specter of Salem

Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America

The Specter of Salem

Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America

In The Specter of Salem, Gretchen A. Adams reveals the many ways that the Salem witch trials loomed over the American collective memory from the Revolution to the Civil War and beyond. Schoolbooks in the 1790s, for example, evoked the episode to demonstrate the new nation’s progress from a disorderly and brutal past to a rational present, while  critics of new religious movements in the 1830s cast them as a return to Salem-era fanaticism, and during the Civil War, southerners evoked witch burning to criticize Union tactics. Shedding new light on the many, varied American invocations of Salem, Adams ultimately illuminates the function of collective memories in the life of a nation.

“Imaginative and thoughtful. . . . Thought-provoking, informative, and convincingly presented, The Specter of Salem is an often spellbinding mix of politics, cultural history, and public historiography.”— New England Quarterly

“This well-researched book, forgoing the usual heft of scholarly studies, is not another interpretation of the Salem trials, but an important major work within the scholarly literature on the witch-hunt, linking the hysteria of the period to the evolving history of the American nation. A required acquisition for academic libraries.”—Choice, Outstanding Academic Title 2009


240 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Culture Studies

History: American History

Religion: American Religions

Reviews

"An imaginative and thoughtful examination of the process by means of which memory is made and remade. . . . Thought-provoking, informative, and convincingly presented, The Specter of Salem is an often spellbinding mix of politics, cultural history, and public historiography."

James M. Lindgren | New England Quarterly

"Adam does an impressive job of making you think about how a nation is shaped by cultural memories"

Theodore Scott | 1776

"Adam shows that the Salem witchcraft trials were serviceable metaphor for other important political and social debates in nineteenth-century United States, and that the search or a meaningful and usable past often debunks the truthful past - as in the case of Salem's residents becoming 'witch-burners.'"

Kelly A. Ryan | HNet

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1. Mysteries, Memories, and Metaphors: From Event to Memory

Chapter 2. Memory and Nation: The Early Republic

Chapter 3. Not to Hell but to Salem: Antebellum Religious Crises

Chapter 4. Witch-Burners: The Politics of Sectionalism

Chapter 5. Witch-Hunters: The Era of Civil War and Reconstruction

Epilogue: The Crucible of Memory

Notes

Index

Awards

Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards
Won

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