IPT Book Reviews

Title: Witch-Children: From Salem Witch-Hunts to Modern Courtrooms
Author: Hans Sebold
Publisher: Prometheus Books, 1995

Prometheus Books
59 John Glen Drive
Amherst, NY 14228-2197
(800) 421-0351
$24.95 (c)

There have been many comparisons of medieval and pre-modern witch hunts, including the Salem witch trials in the 17th century, and the current use of child witnesses in dealing with allegations of child abuse. This 258-page book is a straightforward historical account of the witch-hunts of earlier times. The unique aspect of this book, however, is the emphasis on describing and understanding the role children played in witch-hunts. As the effort to search out witches progressed, children became more and more involved, both as victims and victimizers. It is astonishing to encounter the numbers of children who were tortured and executed as witches. It is chilling to read the documents of their interrogations and confessions. The second half of the book is a detailed presentation of one young boy's confession and how it was elicited.

Throughout the historical development, the book weaves observations based on contemporary understanding of social phenomena that ring the bell for seeing the similarity with current affairs. The final chapter sums up the similarities that may be found in how children are abused, used, and exploited by those pursuing confirmation of allegations today. There are footnotes and references at the end of each chapter and the book contains an author and subject index.

The book is a fascinating account of the history of witch-hunts. It is good for anyone who wants a clearer awareness of how children may be exploited in the name of justice, truth, and probity.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota 55057.

Order this book: Hardcover

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