NEWBURYPORT – The Museum of Old Newbury hosts author Emerson “Tad” Baker on Thursday as he sets the Salem Witch Trials in the broader context of American history from the 1620s to the present and tells how their legacy remains.
The program begins at 7 p.m. in the Wilkie Center at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield. The program is free but tickets are required. Visit www.newburyhistory.org for tickets. The museum’s program series is sponsored in part by the Institution for Savings.
The talk is based on Baker’s recent book, “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience.”
In his illustrated talk, Baker explores the explanations given over the years to solve the mystery of what happened in 1692, but they ultimately show there was no single factor.
Rather, behind the events in Salem and surrounding towns was a unique convergence of conditions, including a new charter and government, a grim and bloody frontier war in Maine, and sectarian and political power struggles, according to a press release.
Focusing on the key players in the Salem witchcraft crisis, Baker tells why the tragedy unfolded as it did. He shows how the Puritan government’s attempts to suppress what had taken place only fueled the popular imagination, and established the trials as a turning point from Puritan communalism to Yankee independence.
Baker is the interim dean of graduate and professional studies as well as a professor of history at Salem State University. He is the award-winning author of many works on the history and archaeology of early New England, including “The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England. “
He has served as an adviser for PBS-TV’s “American Experience” and “Colonial House,” and has been an on-camera expert for TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” He is a member of the Gallows Hill Project team, which in 2016 confirmed the execution site of the Salem trials.