In the frontier town of Springfield in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails, property vanishes and people suffer convulsions as if possessed by demons. Disturbing dreams and visions proliferate. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics and the community becomes tangled in a web of distrust, resentment and denunciation. The finger of suspicion falls on a young couple with two small children: Hugh Parsons the prickly brickmaker and his troubled wife, Mary. It will be their downfall.
The Ruin of All Witches tells the dark, real-life folktale of witch-hunting in a remote Massachusetts plantation, where dreams of love and liberty, of a 'city upon a hill', gave way to paranoia and terror, rage and violence. Drawing on unique, previously unexploited source material, Malcolm Gaskill vividly reanimates a strange yet not too distant past, one where lives were steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in omens, curses and enchantments.
Through the gripping micro-history of a family tragedy, we glimpse an entire society caught in agonized transition between superstition and enlightenment, tradition and innovation. We see, in short, the birth of the modern world.
PRAISE FOR WITCHFINDERS: 'A brilliant new study ... In the vivid three-dimensionality of its dramatis personae, the eloquence of its writing, and the richness of its evocations of vanished worlds of landscape and belief ... Gaskill displays a masterly wizardry all his own.'
Gaskill presents a compassionate, measured view dispelling several myths along the way.
He writes with sympathy, respect and deep human understanding.
A very lucid and humane writer.
A fine achievement. Gaskill has scoured the archives for every scrap of surviving evidence and presented his findings in an intelligent, meticulously documented, and highly readable way . . . As persuasive an account of the whole grisly episode as we are ever likely to get.
PRAISE FOR BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: 'A work of extraordinary scholarship. It captures the spirit of adventure and courage of the first settlers but also shows how high ideals were transformed by the harsh realities of life.'
A beautifully written, sweeping and yet fine-grained account . . . There are many fine books on migration to America, and this deserves a foremost place among them.