The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World
by Malcolm Gaskill 2021
About the Author
Malcolm Gaskill is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. He is an expert in witch-beliefs and witchcraft trials of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, about which he has written extensively. His other areas of interest include crime and the law, mentalities and emotions, and spiritualism. His most recent book is Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans (2014), a study of Anglo-American mentality and culture in the seventeenth century. A new book, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, is set on the New England frontier, and will be published by Penguin, Allen Lane in November 2021. Gaskill is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books.
About the Book
A gripping story of a family tragedy brought about by witch-hunting in Puritan New England that combines history, anthropology, sociology, politics, theology and psychology.
“The best and most enjoyable kind of history writing. Malcolm Gaskill goes to meet the past on its own terms and in its own place…Thought-provoking and absorbing.” —Hilary Mantel, best-selling author of Wolf Hall
In Springfield, Massachusetts in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails, property vanishes, and people suffer convulsions as if possessed by demons. A woman is seen wading through the swamp like a lost soul. 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 soon falls on a young couple with two small children: the prickly brickmaker, Hugh Parsons, and his troubled wife, Mary.
Drawing on rich, previously unexplored source material, Malcolm Gaskill vividly evokes a strange past, one where lives were steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in omens, curses and enchantments. The Ruin of All Witches captures an entire society caught in agonized transition between superstition and enlightenment, tradition and innovation.