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:

Patient-centered Model Outshines Insurance-centered Healthcare during Pandemic

/
Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute Senior Fellow Josh Archambault about his newest research paper entitled, "Direct Health Care Agreements: A New Option For Patient-Centered Care That Costs Less and Reduces Provider Burn-out" and how this emerging service model provided its patients with comprehensive health service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wealth Migration Trends: Remote Work Technology Empowers Workers to Live Anywhere

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute’s Andrew Mikula about his recent research into migration trends of high-income individuals, how pandemic-related technologies may accelerate that movement, and what challenges these changes present for policy makers.

Interstate Legal Skirmish: New Hampshire Takes Massachusetts Telecommuter Tax to the Supreme Court

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with legal scholar and George Mason University Law Professor Ilya Somin about the details, the merits, and the likely implications of the Supreme Court case, New Hampshire v. Massachusetts, on state taxation power, federalism, and the power to vote with one’s feet.

Connecticut’s Painful Journey: Wealth Squandered, Lessons Learned, Promise Explored

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s President and CEO, Chris DiPentima, about what policy makers can learn from Connecticut’s journey from the wealthiest state in the nation, to one with more than a decade of negative job growth.

Intrepid Restauranteurs Endure: Passion for Community, Patrons, and Staff Mean Failure is Not on the Menu

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Massachusetts Restaurant Association President and CEO Bob Luz about the devastating effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on restaurants.  They discuss the industry's creative strategy for survival, plans for reaching beyond the crisis, and the many positive improvements for this vital sector that employs 10% of the workforce in the commonwealth.

California Tax Experiment: Policy Makers Receive Valuable Economics Lesson

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Stanford University Economics Professor Joshua Rauh about his research on the reaction of Californians to a tax increase, from his report, “The Behavioral Response to State Income Taxation of High Earners, Evidence from California.” Prof. Rauh shares how his research offers tax policy makers insight into the likely effects of similar increases in their own states, including here in Massachusetts.

Social Unrest Network: The Disruptive Power of Information For Leadership

/
Joe Selvaggi talks with Martin Gurri, former CIA analyst and author of Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, about the wave of populism sparked by the disruptive force of the internet from Occupy to riots on Capitol Hill. Mr. Gurri shares his views on the connection between massive, broad information consumption and the new view toward elites.

Unemployment Insurance Rescue: Employer Advocate Seeks Relief to Catalyze Pandemic Recovery

/
Joe Selvaggi talks with John Regan, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, about the impact of higher UI rates on employers and what legislators can do to help mitigate the pain.

Police Reform Law: Finding Balance While Seeking Justice

/
Join Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis who shares his views on the features and controversies of the police reform bill on Beacon Hill.

COVID-19 Vaccine: The End of the Epidemic is Within Reach

/
Join Host Joe Selvaggi and Virologist and Investor Dr. Peter Kolchinsky as they discuss the rapid development, efficacy, and rollout of the newly approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Thank Think Tanks: Finding Trustworthy Information in a Partisan Era

/
Join Host Joe Selvaggi and Pioneer Institute’s executive director Jim Stergios as they discuss think tanks, their role in policy formation, and how they preserve trust and their integrity through independent, mission-guided research.

MBTA Cuts Ahead: COVID Causes Commuters To Consider Comprehensive Changes

/
Host Joe Selvaggi and Pioneer Institute Senior Fellow Charlie Chieppo discuss the reasons for the recently proposed cuts to MBTA service, and offer suggestions as to how the agency’s leadership could use this crisis to improve the service’s long-term health.

Capturing Voter Intent: What Polling Error Teaches Us About Electoral Trends

/
Join Host Joe Selvaggi and Harvard Professor Chase Harrison as they discuss polling methodology and what errors in 2020 reveal about voting during COVID-19 and changing attitudes toward pollsters.

Polling Problems: A Professional Pollster Ponders Errors Plaguing 2020 Election Predictions

/
Hubwonk Host Joe Selvaggi and Emerson Polling’s Spencer Kimball discuss the polling industry’s failure to reliably anticipate election results in 2020.  Where were the largest errors, what may have been the reasons, and what should consumers of polling data consider when interpreting data?

Voting for Health: Party Opinions, Election Results & the Healthcare Policy Implications of Election 2020

/
Join Host Joe Selvaggi as he discusses with Harvard Professor Bob Blendon his New England Journal of Medicine Special Report, "Implications of the 2020 Election for U.S. Health Policy," which covers broad differences in both party’s view of the role of government in health care and what the election results will mean for Americans.

Staving Off Disaster: Lessons from Covid Applied to the Epic Battle Against Drug Resistant Microbes

/
Join Hubwonk host Joe Selvaggi and Pioneer Institute’s Bill Smith as they discuss with inspirational public health advocate Gunnar Esiason the findings of his latest white paper, "Antimicrobial Resistance: Learning From the current health crisis to inform another."  The episode looks at the challenges to global health presented by evolving drug resistant diseases and how the lessons learned from COVID-19 could potentially save millions of lives.

Clearing Boston’s Throat: What the I-90 Allston Project Portends for Metro West Commuters

/
Join hosts Joe Selvaggi and Pioneer Institute’s Mary Connaughton, and guest, former Mass. Secretary of Transportation Jim Aloisi, as they discuss the I90 Allston Multimodal Project, its long-term benefits, and their concerns for the metro west commuters and communities during the project’s decade-long construction.

Ballot Question 1: Risks & Regulations Regarding Right to Repair

/
Join host Joe Selvaggi and security technologist Prof. Bruce Schneier as they discuss risks associated with car telematics as well as how best to ensure public safety in the future of the internet of everything.

Small Business Life Support: Policy Relief for Firms Sickened by COVID?

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute’s Andrew Mikula and Retailers Association of Massachusetts' Jon Hurst about the state of small business in Massachusetts six months into the pandemic.

Supreme Court Vacancy: The History, the Stakes & the Options for Replacing a Justice

/
Hubwonk Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro about his new book, Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court.  The episode equips listeners with historical context to better understand the makeup of the Court, the nomination process, and the impact of a new justice on the Court.