The Salem Witch Trials: The World Behind the Hysteria provides an introduction to the Salem witch trials and the major figures involved in the events. There is a brief downloadable video about the trial, teacher tips, and a list of related books and web sites.
To provide information about the history and motives of the participants in the first witch hunt. To provide information about witchcraft as understood by the Puritans of 17th century New England, the economic and social divisions affecting Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the role in children in Puritan society.
Target Student Population:
Target audience is junior high school students. The site may have relevance for high school and college survey courses in United States history and/or literature.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
None. The site provides good background information.
Type of Material:
A collection that includes text, graphics, and video.
Students can go to this site and get a complete lesson on the Salem witch trial.
You will need video player or Flash plugin to view the film, but a free download is provided. Instructions are also given for teachers to download the file to their desktop.
Evaluation and Observation
This is not a huge site but it provides decent background information on Salem in 1690, brief biographis of some of the characters, and theories regarding the reason for the epidemic of witchcraft. The site also contains a few primary documents including Ann Putnam's confession. Good background information about Puritan New England includes a comparative discussion about religion and witchcraft in 17th century Massachusetts Bay Colony, economic and social divisions affecting the colony's population, and information about the role of children in the Puritan family structure.
The site is somewhat busy with some distracting sidebars which do not relate to the topic. The Teacher Tips link does not appear to work or is password protected. Some of the links takes the user to a cybersafari treasure game that is unrelated to the site. Because the site is produced by the Discovery channel, there is a degree of commericialization of product lines involved, which may or maynot relate to the site theme.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This site can be effective. The brief video is good, clear and understandable. There is enough primary material attached to the site to allow the creation of several assignments and a series of questions on witchcraft in Salem and a discussion about primary and secondary sources as historical tools.
The site needs better maintenance to repair the broken links, which can prevent effective use of the materials. There is a lot of extraneous material that is both distracting and annoying.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Directions are simple and it is relatively easy to work through the site. It is useful as a brief learning object to plug into a class on 17th century America in either a history or a literature class. The site could be used with Arthur Miller's "Crucible."
The major concern is the dead links in this site. While the information is helpful, the site materials may lack sufficient depth for many college level students.
Other Issues and Comments:
The material is good though not extensive. It is a learning object site, and provides an overview of the topic with some primary sources and a map of Salem Village and Salem Town. I do find the non-related sidebar and dead links distracting.