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History As It Happens

Jul 13, 2023

Nearly four centuries ago, authorities in Windsor, Connecticut hanged Alice Young, the first recorded execution for witchcraft in the British colonies. In all, twelve people were charged and convicted of witchcraft in Connecticut; eleven were hanged. This year, after persistent lobbying by descendants of the wrongly accused, state legislators exonerated them all, an act of moral restitution for a bizarre and terrifying chapter in American history. Historians differ as to why the witch-belief craze exploded in the mid-1500s in Europe, and it isn't entirely clear why it quickly died down in the late 1600s before the Enlightenment began to take hold. In Europe and America, an estimated 50,000 people were executed for witchcraft. In this episode, historian Kate Carté discusses why religious fanaticism and paranoia consumed entire communities.