A cultural history of witch-hunting, from the Romans through McCarthy
The term "witch-hunt" is used today to describe everything from political scandals to school board shake-ups. But its origins are far from trivial. Long before the Salem witch trials, women and men were rounded up by neighbors, accused of committing horrific crimes using supernatural powers, scrutinized by priests and juries, and promptly executed. The belief in witchcraft--and the deep fear of evil it instilled in communities--led to a cycle of accusation, anger, and purging that has occurred repeatedly in the West for centuries.
Award-winning historian John Demos puts this cultural paranoia in context. He takes readers from the early Christians persecuted in Rome through the Salem witch trials, McCarthy's hunt for communists, and the hysteria around child sex-abuse cases and satanic cults in the 1980s.
An original and fascinating look at the cultural, societal, and psychological practice of witch-hunts, The Enemy Within illuminates the dark side of communities driven to rid themselves of "evil," no matter what the cost.
"No scholar has done more to illuminate the terrifying psychology of witchcraft in Western culture than John Demos. The Enemy Within is a masterful synthesis of this phenomenon, stretching over 2000 years, from its origins in Europe through the Salem witch trials, the Red-hunting campaigns of Senator Joe McCarthy, and the modern-day hysteria surrounding Satanic cults and sensational child abuse charges. An elegant writer, a brilliant historical investigator, Demos is the perfect guide for this rich and fascinating journey."
--David Oshinsky, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story and author of A Conspiracy so Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy
"Only John Demos could write this book! In succinct and well-written chapters, Demos introduces readers to the ways in which anger and fear have caused western societies to turn inward in panics we now call witch-hunts. The Enemy Within, simultaneously sweeping and specific, broadens Demos's earlier work on witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England into a thought-provoking and wide-ranging study."
--Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil's Snare
"A searing story, and a remarkable read. Unlike most historians, Demos does not flinch from taking us up close to real characters. We see the world through the eyes of men and women accused of witchcraft by neighbors they had known for years, as he probes the psychodynamics at work in this terrible experience. In a distillation of a lifetime's research, Demos, who is the foremost scholar of early American witchcraft, reveals patterns that go back to the European middle ages and explains how shifting interpretations of Salem reflect its place at the heart of the American psyche."
--Lyndal Roper, Professor of Early Modern History, Balliol College, Oxford
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . A Fascinating Read
Posted June 03, 2010 by Darcia , New Port RicheyHaving spent most of my life in Massachusetts, I have always been fascinated by witch trials (Salem) and the psychology behind the persecution of witches. This book doesn't address actual witchcraft but instead delves into that very psychology. The author's research is meticulous, his writing clear and easy to follow. The book isn't dragged out and I found no part of it in the least bit boring. I would suggest this book to anyone with an interest in the history and psychology behind witch hunts.
September 30, 2008
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