While my research indicates that the initial geospatial and sociopolitical narrative of the trials that my research question concerned is overly narrow and too generalized to accurately describe or be applied to the entirety of the Salem Witch Trials, geospatial analysis based on the dataset indicates that a sociocultural or sociopolitical interpretation of the spread of accusations in 1692 is not entirely inaccurate or unfounded. The fact that so many fatally or would-be fatally accused witches can be so easily categorized into two distinct groups supports interpreting the events of 1692 as a social and cultural phenomenon that ripped through the Massachusetts Bay Colony along the lines of preexisting community and social tensions. Historians have long since reached a consensus that being a community outcast, as all of the “scorned” witches were in one way or another, made a person a much easier target for witchcraft accusations. That these accused witches comprise the earliest arrests, which were followed by arrests of trial critics, makes logical sense in the greater context of puritan witchcraft persecutions1)Miller, Wilbur R. 2012. The Social History Of Crime And Punishment In America. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE..

As supported by the dataset and the interactive map included in my Analysis, I conclude that the spread of accusations during the Salem Witch Trials were not nearly as simple as a malicious vendetta between residents of Salem Village and their neighbors. Instead, I posit that the spread of accusations followed very traditional lines that make sense within the social, political, and temporal context of seventeenth century New England. Accusations began with social outcasts familiar to the accusers (Tituba, Sarah Goode, and Sarah Osbourne), and eventually spread to include critics (John Proctor and Martha Carrier) and even people belonging to more protected corners of society, such as respectable citizens and full-covenant members of the church (Rebecca Nurse, Mary Bradbury, and  Martha Corey).

These findings are underlaid by the premise that witchcraft trials are a social phenomenon informed by the temporal, social, political and cultural climate in which they occur. Like any other social phenomenon, they warp and weft to reflect the contemporary context, and may be sparked by such an array of non-quantifiable variables that no distinct cause or explanation may be discerned. For more on the context of puritan witchcraft persecutions, or contextual tensions that undoubtedly informed the Salem Witch Trials, visit Context.

References   [ + ]

1. Miller, Wilbur R. 2012. The Social History Of Crime And Punishment In America. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.