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The Witch: A Reading and Resource List


Already being touted as one of the best horror films of 2016 (although that genre designation is debatable), The Witch (currently in theaters nationwide) is the story of a New England family that slowly begins to fall apart when they are banished from their Pilgrim community. Fending for themselves their faith is tested when a series of events occur that slowly fractures them and brings about accusations of witchcraft within their home. To mention more would ruin the story for viewers but needless to say it gets under your skin and stays there.

The largest element to the film that makes it so believable is its authenticity. From the setting, to the clothes, to the dialect, which is very much of the 1600s. Writer and Director Robert Eggers recently mentioned in an interview with Vulture that he used the library's resources to do research for the film. The one book he actually named was Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford but he also makes mention of the subjects he used to do his searching. Below, check out some of the highlights in our collection.

Books on Witches and Early Colonial America

In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton
"A vivid historical chronicle evokes the spirit of late seventeenth-century Massachusetts in an incisive study of the Salem witch trials, discussing the events, the crucial turning points in the case, the accusers and accused, the confessors, and the judges, setting it all against the backdrop of the social, cultural, and political atmosphere of the period."

The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America by Bernard Bailyn
"From an acclaimed historian of early America, a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to the British colonies of North America and their involvements with each other and the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard."

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
"A history of the Pilgrim settlement of New England challenges popular misconceptions, discussing such topics as the diseases of European origin suffered by the Wampanoag tribe, the fragile working relationship between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors, and the devastating impact of the King Philip's War."

A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker
"Presents an historical analysis of the Salem witch trials, examining the factors that may have led to the mass hysteria, including a possible occurrence of ergot poisoning, a frontier war in Maine, and local political rivalries."

Six Women of Salem by Marilynne K. Roach
"Examines the lives of six women accused of witchcraft and their accusers to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials and what it was like to be present throughout this time in Salem's history."

The Pilgrim Chronicles by Rod Gragg
"Drawing from personal accounts and narratives, traces the journey of the Pilgrims from their persecution in England through their exile in Holland to their struggle to survive among the Indians in the New World."

The Mayflower Papers by William Bradford
"A compilation of original primary source material features key personal reminiscences and eyewitness accounts that describe the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century New England."

Making Haste from Babylon by Nick Bunker
"The Pilgrims were entrepreneurs as well as evangelicals, political radicals as well as Christian idealists. "Making Haste from Babylon" tells their story in unrivaled depth, from their roots in religious conflict and village strife at home to their final creation of a permanent foothold in America."

Wayward Puritans : A Study in the Sociology of Deviance by Kai T. Erikson
"Erikson uses the Puritan settlement in 17th-century Massachusetts as a setting in which to examine several ideas about deviant behavior in society.Combining sociology and history, Erikson draws on the records of the Bay Colony to illustrate the way in which deviant behavior fits in the texture of social life generally."

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
"A cultural profile of Puritan life covers a wide range of topics, from their covenant communities and deep-rooted ideologies to their beliefs about church and state and their perspectives on other faiths, in an account that also evaluates their legacy in today's world."

The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology, Edited by Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco
"Uses writings by Puritan authors, testimony from witchcraft trials, and selections from diaries to document Puritan attitudes toward religion, politics and culture."

Salem Witch Judge by Eve LaPlante
"Traces the story of the judge responsible for executing twenty Salem witch trial victims, discussing how he came to regret his actions, and his later efforts to oppose slavery and further Native American relations and sexual equality."

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
"Analyzes the Salem Witch Trials to offer key insights into the role of women in its events while explaining how its tragedies became possible."

The Devil's Disciples by Peter Charles Hoffer
"Hoffer approaches the Salem witch trials as a legal and social historian, looking at the phenomenon in light of recent studies of panic rumors, teen hysteria, child abuse, and intrafamily relations, and detailing the event in a narrative style."

Salem Possessed by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum
"The stark immediacy of what happened in 1692 has obscured the complex web of human passion which had been growing for more than a generation before building toward the climactic witch trials. Salem Possessed explores the lives of the men and women who helped spin that web and who in the end found themselves entangled in it."

All of the books above are available for checkout, but the Library also has great resources (primary and secondary) available online through various databases for further research. All databases featured are available from home with a valid library card and pin number. (Do you live, work, or go to school in NY State and don't have a card? Sign up for one today.)

Articles on Witches and Early Colonial America

The Witches Dance
The Witches Dance. Image ID: 1541268

More History Databases

American Periodicals (1740-1940)
This database contains over 1,800 magazines, journals, and newspapers published between 1740 and 1940, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines, and many other historically significant titles.

American History
Covers American history from the European conquest to the present day. Material is divided into general overviews (Topics) and explorations of issues (Perspectives), supported with articles, images, speeches, and other documentation.

The Witches
The Witches. Image ID: 834522

On Site Resources

There are many rich materials housed at the Schwarzman Building, our main location on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. While they cannot be checked out, you are able to sit and read most materials within the location. The following are some related items:

Landing of the Pilgrims
Landing of the Pilgrims. Image ID: 808101


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

This is an awesome resource.

This is an awesome resource.

And, of course, there's Arthur Miller's drama, "The Crucible"

Based on the real facts, Miller wrote The Crucible as a comment on both the witch trials of the 1690's in Massachusetts as well as the McCarthy witch trials of the 1950's. Current and former NYPL students are studying this play together, each week, and then will see and compare the Broadway show to their reading! Nothing better than experiential learning!!

Salem reading list

Terrific list. Two favorites from childhood are Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Petty and Shirley Jackson's brief but atmospheric history for young adults (title eludes me). The Crucible of course

Why isn't Caliban and the Witch by S. Frederici on here?

Why isn't Caliban and the Witch by S. Frederici on here?

The Crucible and The Witches by Stacy Schiff

1) I recently purchased two tickets to Arthur Miller's The Crucible [which I am very much looking forward to]- as I have never seen it and it has a first rate director: Ivo van Hove and cast - and his version of Miller's "A View from the Bridge" last fall was first rate! 2) Last week I checked out from the NYPL the Penguin Classics version of "The Crucible" - on the last page of which is listed the cast of that play's first night's run on Bway in 1953. I then found out that my mother, an actress, both recalled much of the cast of and had attended that first night! 3) Miller's drama does differ from the events at Salem. Of the non-fiction above, I highly recommend Stacy Schiff's "The Witches" [2015] of which The New York Review of Books stated: "research is impeccable; no previous writer has scoured the documentary record to such great depth" [Schiff is a former Cullman Fellow of the NYPL and a winner of the Pulitzer prize for biography.] Enough to make one believe in: Witchcraft!

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