Malcolm Gaskill, Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and one of the leading experts in the history of witchcraft, joins us to discuss details from his new book The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.
Malcolm Gaskill is an Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. He’s one of the leading experts in the history of witchcraft, with four of his seven books dedicated to this topic, including Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. His most recent book is also about witches and witchcraft; it’s called, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World.
During our investigation, Malcolm reveals how people understood witches and witchcraft in early modern England and how those ideas informed beliefs in seventeenth-century Massachusetts; Details about the colonial settlement at Springfield, Massachusetts; And how a married couple in Springfield–Hugh and Mary Parsons–came to be accused and tried for witchcraft in 1651.
What You’ll Discover
- How people understood witchcraft in early modern England
- How people understood witchcraft in early colonial Massachusetts
- The town of Springfield, Massachusetts in the mid-seventeenth century
- William Pynchon’s role in Springfield and its economy
- Religion in Springfield
- The background of Hugh and Mary Parsons
- How Hugh and Mary Parsons ended up being accused of witchcraft
- The role of rumor in Mary and Hugh being accused of witchcraft
- How the law addressed witchcraft accusations
- The evidence used in witchcraft trials by the accusers and the accused
- How the 1651 Parson’s trial impacted later witch hunts
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
- “I made this”: Black Artists & Artisans Conference, November 10-11, 2023
- Subscribe to Colonial Williamsburg Email Lists
- Episode 049: Malcolm Gaskill, How the English Became American
- Episode 053: Emerson W. Baker, A Storm of Witchcraft
- Episode 192: Brian Regal, The Secret History of the New Jersey Devil
- Episode 225: Elaine Forman Crane, The Poison Plot: Adultery & Murder in Colonial Newport
- Episode 341: Mairi Cowan, Possession and Exorcism in New France
In your opinion, what might have happened if Hugh and Mary Parsons had never married?
Do you think the residents of Springfield still would have set their witchcraft accusations and proceedings in motion if these two had not joined forces and instead remained single?
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