A Fever in Salem by Laurie Winn Carlson
A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials

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Synopsis

In the late winter and early spring of 1692, residents of Salem Village, Massachusetts, began to suffer from strange physical and mental maladies. The randomness of the victims, and unusual symptoms that were seldom duplicated, led residents to suspect an otherworldly menace. Their suspicions and fears eventually prompted the infamous Salem Witch Trials. While most historians have concentrated their efforts on the accused, Laurie Winn Carlson, A Fever in Salem focuses on the afflicted. What were the characteristics of a typical victim? Why did the symptoms occur when and where they did? What natural explanation could be given for symptoms that included hallucinations, convulsions, and psychosis, often resulting in death? Ms. Carlson offers an innovative, well-grounded explanation of witchcraft’s link to organic illness. Systematically comparing the symptoms recorded in colonial diaries and court records to those of the encephalitis epidemic in the early twentieth century, she argues convincingly that the victims suffered from the same disease, and she offers persuasive evidence for organic explanations of other witchcraft victims throughout New England as well as in Europe. A Fever in Salem is a provocative reinterpretation of one of America’s strangest moments, and a refreshing departure from widely accepted Freudian explanations of witchcraft persecution.
 

About Laurie Winn Carlson

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Laurie Winn Carlson's A Fever in Salem, a new interpretation of the New England witch trials, was widely praised. She has also written frequently on the history of the West, including Cattle: An Informal Social HIstory; Sidesaddles to Heaven; and Boss of the Plains. She lives in Cheney, Washington.
 
Published July 20, 1999 by Ivan R. Dee. 228 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Computers & Technology, Travel, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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She does an admirable job of pointing out the inadequacies of other explanations for the witchcraft phenomenon and of demonstrating the congruity of bewitchment and encephalitis symptoms, but as she herself admits, no one knows what causes the disease, and “much research must be done.” Weakening ...

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Carlson (On Sidesaddles to Heaven) supports her case with an impressive array of sources, including legal records of the trials, accounts of Puritan religious and medical beliefs, histories of witchcraft and of mental illness, scientific studies of plagues and Oliver Sacks's Awakenings (which dea...

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