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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Salem witchcraft trials

Between June and September 1692 nineteen men and woman were hanged near the Massachusetts village of Salem because they had been found guilty of witchcraft. You can find out more about the trials here and here. These events are still famous today because Arthur Miller wrote a play about them called The Crucible. He is not the only writer to describe the trials. On BBC Radio 4 the book of the week is Judge Sewall's Apology. Judge Sewall was one of the presiding judges at the trials. I listened to the second episode online today and it was very entertaining. If you want to listen to it you should do so this week before it disappears from the website.

The Crucible is not just an historical drama. Miller wrote it in the 1950s at a time when American senator Eugene McCarthy was persecuting American Communists. The anti-Communist hysteria is described by many as a witch hunt and Miller saw similarities between the trials of 1692 and his own day. You can read more about McCarthyism here.

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