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Lecture 7

ECN 340 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Tituba, Mass Hysteria, Samuel Parris

Course Code
ECN 340
Thomas Barbiero

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Chapter 7 The Economics of Mass Hysteria: Witch-hunts
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692
14 women and 5 men put to death, 18 hung, one crushed to death
Dissension in Salem village. One group wanted own church
Lack of a government, making it impossible to resolve conflict through the law courts
(third party impartiality)
o Much belief in magic eg. Divining the future
Church against practice of magic and condemned those that practiced magic
(=witchcraft). Church equated magic with the devil (evil)
In Europe over 100,000, mostly women, had been executed form witchcraft
Samuel Parris came to Salem and spearheaded a new church
o Strong feelings for and against Parris
In early 1692 young girls in Parris’ household began to act strangely
The local doctor concluded that the afflicted girls were the victim’s; of “witchcraft”
o All the “afflicted” girls were on the side of Parris
Tituba, a West Indian slave, “confesses” to practicing witchcraft
Soon the afflicted young women began to accuse more women of witchcraft. (Did Tituba
contribute to the accusation of more women?)
The afflicted girls accuse some of those appose to Parris’ congregation
Trials were held in which confessions were sought
Since the Church was against witchcraft, those that accused innocent people must have
felt they were on “God’s” side
By mid-1692 the jails in Massachusetts were full of accused “witches”
A kind of “mass hysteria” has taken hold
Those that confessed (for a while) were not executed. This led to more and more
“confessions” (in the hope of saving their lives)
By Sept. 1692 the “afflicted” began to accuse “prominent” citizens
In late 1692 laws were changed making it more difficult to convict the accused “witches:
The tide of opinions change and the accused not yet executed were pardoned
McCarthyism in the early 1950s; many accused them of being “communists” (Red Hunt)
Few willing to defend the accused “communists” because one could easily become
accused themselves
Few willing to pay the “price” to speak up for the accused
The cost of speaking up “too high”
The play “The Crucible,” by Arthur Miller, has the “witch hunt” of the McCarthy era as
its theme
The “economics” of witch hunts has the following attributes:
o There is conflict between groups. One group imposes “cost” on the other group by
accusing them of “evil”
o Opinion turns against the accused and no one is willing to speak up for fear of
also being accused. The individual MC of fear outweigh the MB of saving the
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