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Proving what happened exactly in Salem is nearly impossible. It is possible that the witchcraft hysteria could have been a result of economic and social tensions, or it could have been because of an epidemic of encephalitis that spread through the colonies. Both articles provide very good argument about the causes of the witchcraft hysteria.


According to Boyer and Nissenbaum, the whole problem arose because of the times. Things in the colony were changing. For the first time since they arrived in the colonies, the population was starting to grow more and more. This meant less land for each family. Some families were becoming wealthier and higher up than others, which made other families jealous and angry. The girls’ accusations provided good ways for the community to get rid of the people who were getting too much power. The article notes that some of the most prominent men of Massachusetts were charged or convicted of witchcraft. If the hysteria was caused by an epidemic of illness, why would so many of the prominent people be accused?


Carlson also makes very good points in her article, but they don’t seem to compete with what the other article says. She points out that not only physical illnesses but also mental illnesses could have caused the witchcraft hysteria. What does this mean? She is simply saying that because one girl claimed to be possessed by witches that the rest of the girls followed along. Once this started, they were too involved to stop playing and eventually believed that they really were possessed. It’s hard to say if it was all made up, or if it was due to an actual fever that was making them act crazy. Maybe everyone else in Salem had a sickness that affected their brains and made them think differently, but I highly doubt it.


The evidence in the first article provides stronger proof than in the second article. It seems very unlikely that the public would all start believing everyone was witches all of a sudden. I think that the hysteria was caused because of the social-economic conditions. If it was caused by an epidemic of encephalitis, there wouldn’t have been so many prominent citizens of Salem accused and convicted.


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