Malcolm Gaskill

The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

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.

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.

[Added May 11, 2023]

Ruin of All Witches Cover

History Camp Authors

    America's Summer Roadtrip 2020

      Malcolm Gaskill

      Malcolm Gaskill is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia, UK. He is the author of several books about the history of witchcraft, including Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy (2005), Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction (2010), and most recently The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World (2021), which was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. He has also written about the colonization of North America in Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans (2014), early modern crime and the law, mentalities, and emotions, and spiritualism and psychical research in the twentieth century. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he lives with his family in Cambridge, England.

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