The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

Knopf. Nov. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780593316573. $30. HIST
Known as one of Britain’s leading experts in witchcraft history, Gaskill (emeritus, history, Univ. of East Anglia; Witchfinders) writes a new work about witch hunts and trials. He covers the 1651 case against married couple Hugh and Mary Parsons and their trial’s outcome in great detail. The two lived in Springfield, MA. Hugh was described as moody, taciturn, and avaricious, whereas Mary was viewed as delusional, perhaps suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or postpartum psychosis. During that time, other community members started seeing visions, children passed away, food spoiled, and cows gave tainted milk. Some blamed these events on witchcraft and put people on trial for it. Mary was accused of being a witch; she accused Hugh; and they were both put on trial. The ethos and culture of the Springfield community is based on the author’s extensive research. References are included for further reading. This is an intriguing, vivid, and often frightening study of witch hunts, consequent trials, and the community’s psychological state and how their suspicions led to destructive consequences.
VERDICT This should be of special interest to those fascinated by history and research.
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