Target Audience: Librarians and researchers interested in the historical development of law and the use of early American legal research sources, both in print and online
1) Participants will be able to explain how 17th century Anglo-American courts reconciled supernatural beliefs and the rule of law.
2) Participants will be able to locate primary and secondary historical legal sources on early American witchcraft trials using print and electronic sources, including publicly available databases of pre-Revolutionary materials.
In 1692, 20 people from Salem Village, about 10 miles north of Boston, were killed during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. While the trials are often portrayed as arbitrary, they actually followed very strict rules that had been developed over centuries. Librarians from the Jacob Burns Law Library, which has an extensive collection of materials on witchcraft trials, will look at the substantive and procedural laws regulating witchcraft trials in the late 17th century, how they came to be, and how they were applied in the Massachusetts Colony during the Salem trials. The identification and use of primary and secondary legal history materials will be discussed, including formerly scarce materials that are now widely available electronically.