Salem Witchcraft Trials

(748 words)
  • Marion Spies (Bergische Universität-GHS Wuppertal)

Historical Context Essay

In Massachusetts in the last decades of the seventeenth century, sectarian disputes and religious indifference were on the rise. On the one hand, there was the Protestant emphasis on a direct accountability to God (individual conscience), which led believers challenge authority. In Massachusetts, such ‘heresies’ (mainly of Quakers and Baptists) had been suppressed by the Puritans since the 1630s. On the other hand, society was growing more worldly; many children of the ‘visible saints’ could not give the required testimony of regeneration, which was required to become a full member of the congregation. A further setback to Puritan control was the royal charter of 1691, which required toleration of dissenters and based the r…

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Spies, Marion. "Salem Witchcraft Trials". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 06 May 2004
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]