Pulitzer-Winning Author Stacy Schiff on the Salem Witch Trials

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

In our special Halloween edition of “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Pulitzer-Prize winner Stacy Schiff, whose most recent book is The Witches: Salem, 1692. They discuss why, in Schiff’s view, the Salem witch trials are the “the best known, least understood chapter” of American history, and why the trials, false charges, and finger pointing, remain relevant today in our Internet culture. They review the characteristics of the accused and accusers, and compare them to perceptions passed down through the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Arthur Miller, and others. They also explore the connection between Puritanism, with its iconoclastic principles, and the American founding; and how such a highly literate society based on piety and learning could devolve into one that embraces hocus pocus, superstition, and injustice. Schiff delves into the role of gender and race in the witch trials, and what colonial Salem teaches us about how hysteria can foment civil strife and violence. She concludes with a reading from The Witches: Salem, 1692.

Stories of the Week: In North Carolina, a lawsuit was filed against the state’s opportunity scholarship program that provides up to $4,200 a year in tuition assistance for low-income students to attend private schools. Will state legislators succeed in persuading the Court to dismiss the case? In Detroit, a financial review commission has agreed to release the public school system from state oversight after nearly 11 years, a hopeful sign for a beleaguered district.

The next episode will air on Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 at 12 pm ET with guest, Tara Ross, the nationally-recognized author of Why We Need the Electoral College.

Guest:

Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, is the author most recently of The Witches: Salem, 1692, which The New York Times hailed as “an almost novelistic, thriller-like narrative.” Her previous book, Cleopatra: A Life, was published to great acclaim in 2010, appearing on most year-end best books lists, including The New York Times’s Top Ten Books of 2010, and won the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography. Also a #1 bestseller, Cleopatra was translated into 30 languages. Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Français d’Amérique. Her books have won numerous prestigious awards and honors and she’s received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a Director’s Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Schiff has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Los Angeles Times, among many other publications.

Tweet of the Week:

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Related episodes:

Train Wreck Averted: Labor Ties American Economy to the Tracks

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Dominic Pino, Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at the National Review Institute, about his research and writing on the recently averted rail strike, including how the rail industry is organized, what labor’s demands were, and how the prospect of a nationwide rail strike exposed vulnerabilities within the American economy.

Gargantuan Graduation Gift: Biden Writes Check From Taxpayers To College Grads

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Dr. Beth Akers, AEI Senior Fellow, about the recent presidential executive order to cancel an estimated $500 billion in outstanding student debt. They explore who benefits, who pays, and the likely effects on tuition and the borrowing habits of future students.

MBTA’s Runaway Crisis: Legacy of Neglect Demands Comprehensive Reform

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Andrew Bagley, Vice President for Policy and Research at Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, about their recent report entitled, The MBTA Crisis is Complicated - Fixing It Will Be Too, diving into the details on why the T is in crisis and what the public must demand of policy makers to get it back on track.

The Taxman Cometh: Who Will Pay When the Newly Funded IRS Knocks?

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Rachel Greszler about the $80 billion investment in the Internal Revenue Service, focusing on the promise to limit enhanced enforcement to high earners and whether the IRS will likely need to expand its net.

Civil Society’s Stockade: Protecting Pluralism From Progressive Puritanism

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary magazine, about his recently released book, "The Rise of the New Puritans: Fighting Back Against Progressives' War On Fun," examining how the attempt to remoralize American culture mirrors similar social movements in the past and what concerned onlookers can do to better manage this frenzied phenomenon.

Drug Price Control: Bad Medicine for Healthcare and Region

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Dr. Bill Smith, Director of Pioneer Institute’s Life Sciences Initiative, about the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on long-term health costs. They discuss the bill's unintended consequences, potential effect on the region’s vibrant pharmaceutical research and development sector, and what citizens can do about it.

Other People’s Money: Fair Share’s Populist Promises and Problems

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby about November’s Massachusetts Ballot Question 1, the so-called Fair Share Amendment. They examine both the merits and timing of a graduated state income tax, as well as the effects on society of creating separate categories of taxpayers, and the dangers of setting the many against the few.

Law Enforcement Dividend: Who Benefits When Crime Is Prevented?

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Rafael Mangual, Manhattan Institute senior fellow, about his newly released book, Criminal (In)Justice, examining where crime is occurring in the U.S., what types of crimes those in the prison systems have committed, and the tradeoffs faced by society when considering defunding the police and reducing prison populations. 

Final Election Verdict: Conservative Compendium Comprehensively Closes 2020 Challenge Cases

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Ilya Somin, author and George Mason Law professor, about the newly released report on all court challenges to the 2020 presidential election entitled, Lost, Not Stolen, exploring what its authors intended to achieve, what its readers can learn from its findings, and whether such intra-party scrutiny can serve to reassure voters that their concerns about election integrity have had their day in court.

Supreme Court Shift: Interpreting Changes in Justices, Majorities, and Philosophies

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Ilya Shapiro, constitutional scholar, author, and senior fellow of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute, about the changing makeup of the court, and how this term’s most high-profile decisions reveal the judicial philosophies that comprise the current bench.

Drug Cost Disruption: Direct Generic Access Can Save Consumers Billions

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Dr. Hussain Lalani about his recently published research on the potential for more than $3 billion in savings were Medicare to use Mark Cuban’s new direct-to-consumer drug company to purchase generics.

SCOTUS Gun Stun: Bearing Arms in Summer Bruen Decision

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with CATO Institute research fellow Trevor Burrus about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen and its implications for an individual’s right to carry a fire arm in states such as Massachusetts.

Taxation Without Legislation: Exploring Inflation’s Causes, Curses & Cures

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with Bloomberg Columnist and National Review Editor Ramesh Ponnuru about the reasons for the sustained spike in inflation, its impact on savers and consumers, the possible policy remedies, and the likely intensity and duration of this cycle.

Lifelines for the Untethered: Research to Reach and Recover Homeless Americans

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Stephen Eide, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute about his newly released book, Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem, in which he asserts that a better understanding of the many challenges facing each homeless individual can lead to a tailored and more durable policy solution to this enduring societal problem.

Empowered or Exploited Entrepreneurs: Voters Determine Rideshare Drivers’ Fate on November Ballot

/
Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with communications expert and cofounder of South & Hill Strategies Lizzy Guyton about what the research on the profiles and preferences of rideshare drivers tells us about the industry, and the possible effects of designating independent contractors as employees.

Searching For Space: Massachusetts Real Estate in a Time of Covid

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with real estate expert and broker/owner Pauline Donnelly about the disruption and trends created by the Covid-19 pandemic and steps buyers and renters can take to become more informed, prudent, and competitive in the frenzied market of Greater Boston and Martha’s Vineyard.

Forsaking Massachusetts’s Miracle: Risking Our Future With Past Mistakes

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Greg Sullivan, Research Director at Pioneer Institute and author of Back to Taxachusetts?, about the link between Massachusetts’s decision to reduce tax rates and a generation-long economic renaissance - and the reasons why new taxes such as the proposed, so-called "Fair Share Amendment" risk taking us back to economic stagnation or decline.  

Doctors With Borders: Curing Shortages With International Lifeline

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Cicero Institute’s Jonathan Wolfson about the growing doctor shortage and the potential to alleviate the crisis by tapping the global supply of well-trained physicians eager to find safety and freedom in the US.

Progressive Policy Study: Californians Dreamin’ While Jobs and People Leavin’

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with California Policy Center president Will Swaim about how the state’s ambitious policies have combined to stick its residents with the highest cost of living and a tax regime that discourages investment, innovation, and its vital entrepreneurial class.

Student Debt Cancellation: Paying For Your Neighbors’ College Education

Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi talks with education financing expert Mark Kantrowitz about the $1.6 trillion in U.S. public student debt - who owes it, who stands to benefit from the Biden administration's recent promise for across-the-board student debt reductions, and what strategies are available to target only those most in need.