Documents of the Salem Witch Trials

by K. David Goss


In January of 1692, two young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to have been bewitched. In the course of the following year, the ensuing witch hunt resulted in the executions of 20 people.

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Cover image for Documents of the Salem Witch Trials

January 2018


Pages 181
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics American History/General
  Politics, Law, and Government/History

Through its extensive use of primary source materials and provision of essential accompanying explanations, this book places readers into the context of late 17th-century Salem society to shed light on one of the darkest events in American history—the Salem witch trials.

The Salem witch trials are one of the most fascinating events in American history. Despite being commonly covered in school curricula, the nature of the trials are often misunderstood. This book enables readers to get unique perspective and insight into the nature of this event through a representative selection of primary source materials, each of which is prefaced with explanatory editorial comments. The result is a work that clarifies the belief systems and religious and social culture of 17th century Massachusetts and places them into a comprehensible context to make sense of how the Salem witch trials came to happen.

The book provides an introductory overview of the Salem witch trials, which is followed by an array of primary sources that tell the Salem story in the words of both the accusers and the victims of that episode. Editorial commentary accompanies each of the documents, placing it into its historical framework and clearly explaining archaic terminology and testimony.

The primary sources used in this work are drawn from the vast archive of Salem witch trial sources, including court testimonies, court depositions, commentary from journals, miscellaneous court records such as arrest and death warrants, and writings by contemporary critics of the trials. This broad and balanced mix of documents gives students of the Salem witch trials a unique sense of the extent and impact of this event on the people of colonial Massachusetts as well as the complexity of the event.


  • Examines the individual cases of many of the victims of the more than year-long Salem witch trials episode
  • Clarifies the historical context of the belief systems and culture of 17th-century Massachusetts to enable modern readers to grasp how such an unbelievable series of events could have happened in that specific era
  • Introduces contemporary audiences to the meaning of the archaic language and ideas of the late 1600s as used in the primary documents
Series Description

Eyewitness to History

ABC-CLIO's Eyewitness to History series provides primary documents accompanied by invaluable contextualizing information to help readers understand historical developments, events, and individuals. The books' format allows for a remarkable range of documents that showcase a wide variety of perspectives, including personal narratives, letters, and first-hand accounts; newspaper stories, op-ed pieces, and contemporary reactions and responses; and government and legislative documents, such as laws, speeches, and court testimony.

Each title in the series offers a fascinating documentary history devoted to a significant era, event, or social movement. The carefully curated primary sources give the actual words of people who lived through these past times, empowering today's readers and researchers to consider the topic critically, fairly, and intelligently.
Author Info

K. David Goss, MA, PhD candidate, is professor of history and museum studies at Gordon College, Wenham, MA. His published works include Greenwood's The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide and Daily Life during the Salem Witch Trials. Goss has received the Marvin Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching.



"An excellent addition to the United States history collections of any academic or research-based library. Students will find this slim volume an easily accessible source of primary resources for their searches and thus it serves well for lower-level undergraduates. The extent and depth of the documents also make this work valuable to upper-division students focusing on colonial American history."—ARBA

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