Project Reviews

The Salem Witchcraft Trials
Created and maintained by Douglas O. Linder

Background of the Site

The Salem Witchcraft Trials site is produced by Douglas O. Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law. This trial page is part of a larger project focusing on famous trials throughout history including such examples as the trials of Jesus, Galileo, Lizzie Borden, the Scopes "Monkey Trial", all the way up to O.J. Simpson and the 9/11 trials.

Purpose of the Site

This site is primarily aimed at a pre-collegiate environment offering tools for both the student and the instructor. The student can learn from such games as "You're Accused" where they have to make choices from the perspective of an accused witch. Another game is "Salem Witchcraft Jeopardy" where they chose dollar amounts and answer questions that increase in difficulty as the dollar amount increases. For the instructor, there are teaching tools such as "Causes" "Why it Ended" and "Lessons" which address what we can learn from the trials.

Materials of the Site

The materials of the site include a detailed (but plain) typed chronology of the events of the trial. Included are the works of Cotton Mather but there is no original scan, merely a typed edited edition of one of his major works. There is a scan of an original death warrant that does offer some sense of historical feel to the site but it is barely readable. There are some good maps of Salem and witch trials in Colonial America. Also included is a link to the Complete Salem Witchcaft Papers that are part of the UVA etext program.

Layout of the Site

The site is primarily composed of edited primary source documents with very little analysis. The documents are listed on the left hand side of the page with a nice picture in the middle and an introduction to the events of the trial which can be continued onto another page offering a general narrative of the events that can commonly be found in any textbook. The primary materials are not organized in any specific way and one is easily finished clicking on every link in the site.

Criticisms of the Site

There does not seem to be anything in this site that one cannot find in a general textbook on the Salem Witch trials, except for the interactive games which are elementary and simple. The analysis is equally simple and one is not left pondering any of the big questions regarding the implications of the trials in general. All in all is seems more like a listing of documents rather than a work of digital scholarship.

Shannon L. Meyer
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: Spring 2007