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Salem Witch Trials

             What caused the Salem witch trials? This is a question that has been asked for the last three hundred years. There is no easy answer to that question. There were numerous factors and events that lead to the trials. "A recent small pox outbreak, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter by Charles II and the constant fear of Indian attacks helped in creating anxiety among the Puritans and a fear that God was punishing them. This fear of punishment established a fertile atmosphere in which a case of witchcraft could easily be interpreted by the Puritans as the cause of Gods wrath" (Victims) Other factors were politics, religion, family feuds, economics, and the imagination and fears of the people. These factors brought about a climate of repression, religious intolerance, social hierarchy combined with fanaticism and oppression of women. The Puritan leaders used the trials as a way to control the community and prevent change in the strict social hierarchy. According to Woloch "historian Carol F. Karlson points out most New Englanders accused of witchcraft were middle aged or older women, who lacking brothers or sons stood to inherit. Such women impeded "the orderly transition of property from one generation to another"." (Woloch, 30).
             Lets start with the political problems of Salem. The tension over land was growing fast. The residents were divided into two groups: those that wanted to separate from Salem town, and those that did not. The farming families in the Western part of Salem Village wanted to separate from Salem Town. The families located in the eastern part of Salem Village and therefore closest to Salem Town wanted to remain part of the town. (Sutter) There was much overcrowding in in New England communities. In 1632, the general court granted Governor Endicott three hundred acres of land. With subsequent land grants to others, the boundaries and borders that told the people who owned what land was in dispute.

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