Exam preparation materials

THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

The Massachusetts colony underwent great economic and social change in the last half of the seventeenth century. Tensions developed between the Puritan ideal of small, tightly knit farming communities and the developing ideal of a colony based on trade and commerce, with less emphasis on strict Puritan beliefs. These tensions were largely responsible for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Several women had been killed earlier in the century in Massachusetts for suspicion of witchcraft, but in 1692 a larger group of women were reported to display strange behavior. Observers testified many had strange fits and experienced ''great distress.” By the end of August over 100 people were jailed for suspicion of witchcraft; 19 people (18 of them women) had already been executed. The new royal governor to Massachusetts arrived and ended the trials, freeing those in prison. As stated previously, the trials demonstrated the social clashes existing in the colony; almost all of the accusers were members of the older farm communities, while the accused all were part of the newer “secular” class.

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