In Search of History: Salem Witch Trials (1998) - Video Review & Guide for Teachers | Student Handouts
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In Search of History:
Salem Witch Trials

Educative Value: 7/10
Release date: 1998
Reviewer: Ms. Fox
Length: 43 minutes
Review: "In Search of History: Salem Witch Trials" provides adequate information on this subject for students in junior and senior high school (though advanced high school students will most likely want to probe into the topic more deeply than this video permits).  This documentary begins with an overview of the history of witch hunts and trials in Europe, including their justification.  Important texts such as Malleus Maleficarum are discussed.  We have terms and questions from this DVD provided below.
Age appropriateness: "In Search of History: Salem Witch Trials" is not officially rated in the United States.  It is fine for showing to a class of students in grades 5 and up.

Creators and stars:
Abbe Raven, David Ackroyd, David Goss, Gary H. Grossman, George Stamer, Jane Kamensky, Jane Ward, Joel Rizor, Michael Andreas, Rob Blumenstein, Robb Weller, Ronald Hutton, Susan Webbe

Accuracy: The factual information presented in this short documentary film is accurate.  This program relies primarily on interviews with experts and numerous illustrations, many dating to the period.  The biggest flaw is this film's failure to address the latest research which indicates that the accusers may have been experiencing LSD-like symptoms due to tainted rye bread.
Vocabulary terms and names: accusation, apologize, confess, Cotton Mather, Court of Oyer and Terminer, evidence, Exodus 22:18, hanging, heretics, justice, magistrate, Malleus Maleficarum, Memorable Providences, misogyny, New England, persecution, political instability, predestination, pressing, prosecution, Puritans, Salem, spectral evidence, strappado, Tituba, theocracy, torture, trial, witch hunt, witchcraft

Review and discussion questions:
(1) According to seventeenth-century beliefs, what are three ways to identify a witch?  (2) Why was witchcraft considered an act of treason?  (3) According to Puritan thinking, why were women more prone to turn to devil worship?  (4) Describe the behavior of the accusers.  (5) According to Tituba, how many people had signed the devil's book?  (6) Compare and contrast those who supported the accusers and those who supported the accused.  (7) What was "the one sure way to survive the trials"?  (8) How many people lost their lives as a result of the Salem witch trials?  (9) What happened in the years following the witch trials?  (10) Imagine that you are a resident of Salem Village in 1692, and are accused of witchcraft.  How would you plead, and why?
"In Search of History: Salem Witch Trials" Movie Review Publication Date for Citation Purposes: June 28, 2012