Deborah Colleen Mcnally
Introduction to the discipline of history for new or prospective majors. Emphasizes the basic skills of reading, analysis, and communication (both verbal and written) that are central to the historian's craft. Each seminar discusses a different subject or problem.
HIST 388: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
This seminar for new and prospective History majors has two key objectives. First, students will receive practical training in the methods of historical analysis, in how historians think and work. Second, we will examine the best-known witchcraft crisis in American history, the Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, and place it within the historical context of seventeenth-century Puritan culture. Students will have the opportunity to compare and contrast historiographical interpretations of the crisis to one another and to trial and court records, ministerial accounts and sermons, maps, church records, diaries, genealogical records, and literary works, many of which are available on the University of Virginia’s Salem Witchcraft website.
Student learning goals
To learn how to think critically about primary and secondary historical sources
To learn how to develop your own historical interpretations grounded in primary evidence
To develop the skill of effective oral communication
To gain a deeper understanding of seventeenth-century Puritan culture
General method of instruction
The course meets once a week for two hours. As a seminar-style course, meetings will consist primarily of student analysis and discussion of assigned readings.
Familiarity with Early American history is helpful but not essential. More important is a willingness to read approximately 100-200 pages a week, a commitment to attend every class, and to participate in class discussions.
Class assignments and grading
Assignments include giving one short oral presentation and the completion of four papers: a short 2 page paper investigating the primary sources available on the University of Virginia’s Salem Witchcraft website, a 2-3 page paper analyzing primary sources, a 4-5 page book review comparing two historiographical interpretation of the crisis, and a 6-8 page research paper utilizing primary sources in which students have the opportunity to plan, research, and write their own analysis of some aspect of the crisis. Readings will likely include Benjamin, A Student's Guide to History; Boyer and Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft; Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England; Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England; Norton, In the Devil's Snare; and a small Course Pack of primary and secondary works.
There will be no midterm or final exam. Grades will be based on the assigned papers, the short oral presentation, and on the quality of participation in classroom discussions.