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The Ruin of All Witches

Life and Death in the New World

Malcolm Gaskill



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Allen Lane
16 November 2021
The dark, compelling history of a colonial witch-hunt, from the author of Witchfinders 'The best and most enjoyable kind of history writing ... thought-provoking and absorbing' Hilary Mantel In the frontier town of Springfield in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails and property vanishes. People suffer fits and are plagued by strange visions and dreams. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics, and the community becomes tangled in a web of spite, distrust and denunciation. The finger of suspicion falls on a young couple struggling to make a home and feed their children- Hugh Parsons the irascible brickmaker and his troubled wife, Mary. It will be their downfall.

The Ruin of All Witches tells the dark, real-life folktale of witch-hunting in a remote Massachusetts plantation. These were the turbulent beginnings of colonial America, when English settlers' dreams of love and liberty, of founding a 'city on a hill', gave way to paranoia and terror, enmity and rage. Drawing on uniquely rich, previously neglected source material, Malcolm Gaskill brings to life a New World existence steeped in the divine and the diabolic, in curses and enchantments, and precariously balanced between life and death.

Through the gripping micro-history of a family tragedy, we glimpse an entire society caught in agonized transition between supernatural obsessions and the age of enlightenment. We see, in short, the birth of the modern world.
By:   Malcolm Gaskill
Imprint:   Allen Lane
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 240mm,  Width: 162mm,  Spine: 32mm
Weight:   555g
ISBN:   9780241413388
ISBN 10:   0241413389
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   16 November 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Malcolm Gaskill is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. He is one of Britain's leading experts in the history of witchcraft, whose previous works include the highly acclaimed Witchfinders- A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy and Between Two Worlds- How the English Became Americans.

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

PRAISE FOR WITCHFINDERS: 'A brilliant new study ... In the vivid three-dimensionality of its dramatis personae, the eloquence of its writing, and the richness of its evocations of vanished worlds of landscape and belief ... Gaskill displays a masterly wizardry all his own.' -- John Adamson * Sunday Telegraph * Gaskill presents a compassionate, measured view dispelling several myths along the way. * Independent on Sunday * He writes with sympathy, respect and deep human understanding. -- John Guy * Sunday Times * A very lucid and humane writer. -- Hilary Mantel A fine achievement. Gaskill has scoured the archives for every scrap of surviving evidence and presented his findings in an intelligent, meticulously documented, and highly readable way . . . As persuasive an account of the whole grisly episode as we are ever likely to get. -- Keith Thomas * New York Review of Books * PRAISE FOR BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: 'A work of extraordinary scholarship. It captures the spirit of adventure and courage of the first settlers but also shows how high ideals were transformed by the harsh realities of life.' -- Rachel Trethewey * Independent * A beautifully written, sweeping and yet fine-grained account . . . There are many fine books on migration to America, and this deserves a foremost place among them. -- Donald M. MacRaild * Times Higher Education *

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