A Quest for Security: The Life of Samuel Parris, 1653-1720

A Quest for Security: The Life of Samuel Parris, 1653-1720

A Quest for Security: The Life of Samuel Parris, 1653-1720

A Quest for Security: The Life of Samuel Parris, 1653-1720


A Quest for Security is the first book-length biography of Samuel Parris, the man who led the 1692 struggle against the scourge of witchcraft. While an examination of Samuel Parris's actions reveals his crucial part in the witchcraft crisis, this biography also serves as a reminder of the concern of early Americans to sustain economic independence for their families. Fully documented with endnotes and featuring a complete bibliography of primary and secondary works, this volume fills a noticeable gap in the literature on Salem witchcraft.


No scholar works alone. Many people contributed to the completion of this work. The staffs of many libraries and archives were critical. At the University of Missouri-Rolla, reference librarians were particularly adept in securing important published primary sources as well as secondary ones. Also helpful were the staffs at the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Massachusetts Archives, the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, the Baker Library at Harvard University, the Connecticut Historical Society, the Essex Institute, and the Danvers Archives, Christine Matthews and her staff at the Barbados Archives at Black Rock, Barbados were gracious during all my research trips there.

All who attempt to make sense out of the Salem witchcraft episode owe a debt to the extraordinary work of Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum. Their two collections of primary sources, The Salem Witchcraft Papers and Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, and their m onograph entitled Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft provide a starting point for all who venture into this topic. Although I disagree with their interpretation of Samuel Parris, that does not diminish the significant contribution they have made to the study of this complex episode.

The University of Missouri-Rolla consistently supplied financial support for numerous research trips particularly in 1984 with a Weldon Spring Research Grant.

Several individuals offered comments on portions of the manuscript. George Selement made suggestions on chapter four, Parris's pastorate, Chadwick Hansen corrected errors and offered encouragement on chapters seven and eight on the witchcraft episode . . .

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