Switching Sides: How a Generation of Historians Lost Sympathy for the Victims of the Salem Witch Hunt
For most historians living through the fascist and communist tyrannies that culminated in World War II and the Cold War, the Salem witch trials signified the threat to truth and individual integrity posed by mass ideological movements. Work produced in this era, including Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Marion L. Starkey's The Devil in Massachusetts, left little doubt that most intellectual's sympathies lay with the twenty innocent victims who stood up to Puritan intolerance. In Switching Sides, Tony Fels traces a remarkable shift in scholarly interpretations of the Salem witch hunt from the post--World War II era up through the present. Determined to champion the common people of colonial New England, dismissive toward liberal values, and no longer instinctively wary of utopian belief systems, the leading works on the subject to emerge from 1969 through the early 2000s highlighted economic changes, social tensions, racial conflicts, and political developments that served to unsettle the accusers in the witchcraft proceedings. These interpretations, still dominant in the academic world, encourage readers to sympathize with the perpetrators of the witch hunt, while at the same time showing indifference or even hostility toward the accused. Readers will come away from Switching Sides with a sound knowledge of what is currently known about the Salem witch hunt--and pondering the relationship between works of history and the ideological influences on the historians who write them. --Book cover
Johns Hopkins University Press
History | United States History
Fels, Tony, "Switching Sides: How a Generation of Historians Lost Sympathy for the Victims of the Salem Witch Hunt" (2018). 2018 USF Faculty and Staff Books. 3.