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Social Context (Historical)

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This article contains officially released material, so it must not be changed.
Isaac Walton: Have I passed over? Did I make it to Heaven? Or am I in Hell?

Dr.Wainwright: Neither Heaven nor Hell, Sir. Merely Salem.

— about Salem

The colonial history of the United States covers the history of European settlements from the start of colonization of America until their incorporation into the United States. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major colonization programs in eastern North America. European settlers came from a variety of social and religious groups. No aristocrats settled permanently, but a number of adventurers, soldiers, farmers, and tradesmen arrived[1].

Puritans

Main article: Puritans

The Puritans were a group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, including, but not limited to, English Calvinists. Puritanism in this sense was founded by John Calvin from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England.

Religion

Main Article: Deities

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Increase Mather torture his own body with a cilice

The idea of personal Biblical interpretation, while central to Puritan beliefs, was shared with most Protestants in general. They believed that man existed for the glory of God, that his first concern in life was to do God's will and so to receive future happiness. Puritans believed in demonic forces, as did almost all Christians of this period. Puritan pastors undertook exorcisms for demonic possession in some high-profile cases, and believed in some allegations of witchcraft. The Puritans, as well as other forms of worship of the emigrants to the New World, consisted of sermons that came to last even six hours and the Mass was held every day, not just on Sundays. Also were treated with distrust all the gold vestments in Church, decorations (eg candles, christmas tree, nativity scene) because they were perceived as idolatry and pagan heritage.

Social life

Puritans placed family at the center of their societies, as an organization to facilitate their devotion to God. Based on Biblical portrayals of Adam and Eve, Puritans believed that marriage represented one of the most fundamental human relationships rooted in procreation, love, and, most importantly, salvation. Furthermore, marriage represented not only the relationship between husband and wife, but also the relationship between spouses and God. Puritan husbands commanded authority through family direction and prayer. The female relationship to her husband and to God was marked by submissiveness and humility

Apparel

Dressing differently was dangerous in Salem

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John Hale perfectly in line with the Puritanical dress code

Women’s fashion in Salem at the time of the trials was very conservative. The church dictated the dress code, and women were to wear large dark outfits that hid their form and most of their skin. In fact, convicted witch Sarah Bishop was in part accused thanks to her “flamboyant dress.”

Tv show costumes

Over 600 costumes and 300 shoes help bring Salem to life. Costume designer Joseph Porro reveals how he dressed Salem Village with both history and fantasy.

Indigenous people

Main Article: Indians

New England has long been inhabited by Algonquian-speaking native peoples, including the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Pequot, the Wampanoag, and many others. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans such as Giovanni da Verrazzano, Jacques Cartier and John Cabot charted the New England coast.

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Anne Hale facing an Indigenous in the woods near Salem

The earliest known inhabitants of New England were Native Americans who spoke a variety of the Eastern Algonquian languages.

According to archaeological evidence, the indigenous people of the warmer parts of Southern New England had started agricultural endeavors over a thousand years ago. They grew corn, tobacco, kidney beans, squash, and Jerusalem artichoke. Trade with the Algonquian peoples of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, where the growing season was shorter, likely provided for a robust economy.

As early as 1600, French, Dutch, and English traders, exploring the New World, began to trade metal, glass, and cloth for local beaver pelts. The traders and sailors brought previously unknown European diseases, especially smallpox, measles, malaria, and yellow fever, which quickly spread along trade routes and killed a majority of the Indians in the region by the 1630s.

Paganism and Superstitions

Witchcraft wasn't always dark

Main article: Witchcraft

Witchcraft began as a way for superstitious farmers to grow their crops. They cast spells and laid charms on their farms in order to encourage their plants to grow large and harvests bountiful. It did not take long for this to transform into “dark magic,” and the Puritanical villagers of Salem had no tolerance for anything with an unexplainable or extraordinary nature. Seizures were thought to be signs of possession.

Witch Trials

Main article: Salem Witch Trials (Historical Timeline)

The Trials were held for sixteen months. Of the 72 accused souls tried for witchcraft between February 1692 and May 1693, 20 of them were put to death. Perhaps this is fewer lives lost than you thought. Perhaps it’s more. In either case, it is 20 lives too many. And their stories haunt Salem’s history to this day.

Policy and Justice

Main article: Tools of Torture

The Puritan movement in England was riven over decades by emigration and inconsistent interpretations of Scripture, and some political differences that surfaced at that time. Justice was perpetrated by a council of senior members of the community, known as selectmen, formed exclusively by men.

Slavery

English Slavery was based on Religion

The first Africans brought to America were indentured servants. They would work a length of time in order to pay back the debt of the voyage to the new world, then be free. The English had no tradition of enslaving based on race… only religion. They enslaved non-Christians, only freeing them once they had converted. However, in the mid seventeenth century, a change occurred. The colonies realized it made more economic sense to hold onto this labor for as long as possible, so slavery began to be measured on an unchangeable metric: skin color.

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Slave ship from the Old World

Legal Slavery in America started in Massachusetts

Massachusetts was the first colony to legally recognize slavery. They did it in 1641. With this law, the state sanctioned a legacy in the United States far more damning and wide reaching than the witch trials of Salem Village.

Slave ship captains packed slaves like cargo

Owners of slave ships considered their cargo to be no different than any other commodity. They packed slaves as tightly as they would coffee, tobacco or lumber. Often slaves were sardined together so closely there was no room to walk between them. Thanks to this practice, disease spread like wildfire on these ships and 20% of all inbound slaves did not survive. Small pox, yellow fever, and dysantary were common. Malaria first came to America via slave ship.

Video

Salem- Season One Special23:33

Salem- Season One Special

References

  1. The texts on this page are from the WGN America official website, so you should leave them unchanged since they are official material, to be considered as if they were the extra content of DVDs.

See Also

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