It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister's daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death.
The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.
As psychologically thrilling as it is historically seminal, The Witches is Stacy Schiff's account of this fantastical story -- the first great American mystery unveiled fully for the first time by one of our most acclaimed historians.
About the Author
Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Book Award; Cleopatra: A Life, winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography; and The Witches: Salem, 1692.
Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and named a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Government, she lives in New York City.
"History in the hands of Stacy Schiff is invariably full of life, light, shadow, surprise, clarity of insight, and so it is again and then some in her latest work, The Witches. Few writers combine as she does superb scholarship and an exceptional gift for language with amazing reach and agility of mind. This is a superb book."—David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Wright Brothers
"The Witches is the fullest and finest story ever told about Salem in 1692, and no one else could tell it with the otherworldly flair of Stacy Schiff."—Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Quartet
"Stacy Schiff has beautifully combined remarkable story telling with historical accuracy and insight. Shehas opened up important new avenues for Salem scholarship."—Bernard Rosenthal, editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt
"Stacy Schiff's The Witches is an indelibly etched morality fable, the best recounting of the Salem hysteria in modern times. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Schiff makes the complex seem simple, crafting a taut narrative that takes in religion, politics, folklore, and the intricate texture of daily life in Massachusetts Bay, with particular attention to those 'wonder-working' women and girls who chose this moment to blow apart the Puritan utopia they'd helped to found. It's all here in one devilish, oracular book."—Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller
"Enchanting. Out of the shadows of the past come excitable young girls, pompous ministers, abusive judges, grieving parents, and angry neighbors, all of them caught up in a terrifying process that seemed to have no end: discovering who among them deserved death for being in league with Satan. The Witches is as close as we will ever come to understanding what happened in and around Salem in 1692. Courtrooms, streets, churches, farm yards, taverns, bedrooms-all became theater-like places where anger, anxiety, sorrow, and tragedy are entangled. An astonishing achievement."—David D. Hall, Bartlett Research Professor of New England Church History, Harvard University
"From Cleopatra to the Salem coven. From intelligent rule to hysteria, mayhem, and murder. The Salem witch trials offer Stacy Schiff an out-sized drama that seized Americans' imaginations more than 300 years ago. All of Schiff's books demonstrate her rigor as a historian and her dexterity as a stylist. The Witches proves she has something else: the instincts of a thriller writer. This book needs a seat belt."—Kathryn Harrison, author of Joan of Arc
"Once again Stacy Schiff dazzles us. The Witches is a must read for anyone intrigued by this baffling and horrifying chapter from America's Puritan past. What Schiff uncovers is mesmerizing and shocking. Her meticulous research and lyrical writing lay bare an injustice that we should never forget-lest we repeat it."—Patricia Cornwell, author of Depraved Heart
"Schiff, who had a hit with her biography Cleopatra, may get even more attention for her new look at America's infamous witch trials."—Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The Witches is a vivid investigation of the original American nightmare. Stacy Schiff brilliantly teases apart the strands of myth and history. In an age when superstition remains a vibrant and dangerous force, her book is, alas, also relevant."—Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World
"Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a reliably entertaining guide...[to] one of the strangest, most fascinating chapters in American history."—Tom Beer, Newsday
"Few authors set the scene of history quite like Stacy Schiff.... The Witches brings a fresh eye to the worst misogynist atrocity in American history, tracing the complex cultural and psychological origins of the Puritan hysteria."—Megan O'Grady, Vogue.com
"Unlike the drudgery of the movie adaptation of The Crucible, which you probably watched in high school, Schiff writes with conviction and a strong sense of narrative, elevating the dry snooze of history to a new level. It's an endlessly fascinating read."—Megan Reynolds, Gawker
"Schiff possesses a talent for forcing us to rethink what we know.... The Witches explodes a lot of myths."—Deirdre Donahue, AARP
"A brilliant, exceptionally well-researched account of the 1692 Salem witch trials.... Much of what is so compelling about The Witches is how vividly Schiff brings this very different era to life.... This narrative approach works so well because Schiff just happens to be a superb and witty writer.... The Witches definitely sparkles."—Alden Mudge, BookPage
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