tv QA with Stacy Schiff CSPAN November 15, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am EST
schiff. and the british former -- foreign secretaries talked about climate change. >> ♪ >> this week on "q&a," pulitzer prize winning author stacy schiff discusses her latest book, "the witches" about the 1692 salem witch trials and events leading up to them. brian: stacy schiff, author of "the witches," why do people want to read about it? stacy: we go to it, the fascination with the supernatural. partly because it seems so inconsistent with the rest of our history. this bizarre, irrational and a
bible-minded place. partly because we read "the crucible" in high school. which we can talk about human half the people i have spoken to in the last few weeks descend from the families affected in 1692 were when they were in high school. partly because it has such resonance. brian: when you were here four years ago for "cleopatra," you were talking about this book. i want to look at a minute. stacy: something reassuring about a biography, an obvious structure most of the time. an obvious orthodox structure. a beginning, middle, and end. and delicious pleasure of killing off your subject. it is a particularly gratifying kind of work. brian: what year? stacy: a good question, 1994. the next book about vera nabokov, the wife of the writer. best known for "lolita," and
that was the portrait of a marriage the third book about . ben franklin and his years in france. very difficult to research but a thorough pleasure. and changing tasks, cleopatra. one of the blessings of biography is it you do not have to look at your own life. you examine somebody else's life. i am sure there's a reason about that. the new book is about the salem witch trials. i am from massachusetts. i feel like i am back home in some way. brian: when will it come out? stacy: many years from now. i just started. it takes me 4-5 years to write a book. brian: what change in your mind for years ago to now? stacy: looking back, did you ever hear what george elliott said? beginning the book as a young woman and ended as old woman? everything changed in my mind. because i do not generally go into a book with an agenda. research with to
as open a mind that i can maintain so i can listen to every possible voice and current. and i did not have an overriding theory. an overriding sense of where it would take me. i dove into the materials and found the voices that carried you through the story. i began to see patterns and one earlier, superimposed on what would happen in massachusetts and begin to understand the political strains and hear from other girls from the 17th century. not necessarily the ones involved in salem. and the pieces began to come together in a way i could not have had a sense of than. i am glad to say it would take four or five years. i was correct about that part. brian: an update about the whole story in case there are people like i was he did not know very much about it. what were the years you're talking about? stacy: really nine months. the witchcraft breaks out, first diagnosed in february 1692.
the crisis will snowball over the next few months. the entire incident is over by the fall. really nine months from start to end. i came to it largely from cleopatra thinking conceptions of it are very skewed. not in incident where men are choosing women. this is not an incident where all of the victims are women. we had five male victims. including a minister. we hang the witches. in addition to the speed, so much encrusted myth and misunderstanding here. i thought it was important to dispel. brian where is salem in : massachusetts? stacy: northeastern massachusetts. about half a day's drive from boston. now, about 20 or 30 minutes from boston. brian: how many lived there? stacy: you had two salem's.
salem town which was refined port city second only to boston and the province and then salem village where the witchcraft breaks out. an agrarian community about five miles down the road, a bunch of stouthearted farmers who moved from town because the farmland is better. have no authorities of their own in the village. when they say witchcraft is broken out, they have to ride into salem village to appeal to the justices to issue arrest warrants for people they accused. brian: we have a picture from one of the websites of the monument there. is it still that big a deal? stacy: interest there are 2 salem's. salem village today has treated the history with a certain amount of respectful distance . salem town has embraced the history in a somewhat commercialized way.
more so since the 1970's when "bewitched" films of their and it was possible to confronted his history which nobody really wanted to talk about for some time. and a salem town as it was then, salem today, has become the best place to buy a broomstick or a set of crystals or vampire fangs. kind of witchcraft central. brian: pick a witch moment. describe a witch moment. if you were there when on the swirling the stuff went around, give us a moment. stacy: 50 people confessed midway through the crisis where confessions were very frequent. and different ways and adding
elaborate details. a greater number of accused witches from the neighboring communities, not often salem, will tell about how they attend a diabolical sabbath in the same village minister. a large banquet table. with tankards. they will discuss some of the feast and how they arrived at it by various aerial means. some people say they've flown on sticks some carried on the devil's shoulders. most people fly with their neighbors or children or friends. and attended this satanic ritual and are complicit in a giant conspiracy to overthrow not only the churches of new england but also the state. brian: how many people were killed in this timeframe? stacy: 19 people were hanged the -- and one person crushed to death under stone for refusing to enter a plea. brian: what are they guilty of? stacy: witchcraft.
this is the difficult part, witchcraft is capital offense. a capital offense in massachusetts second law. every new englander believes in, even those who themselves innocent, believe in witchcraft. it may seem it was superstitious medieval concept but to an early modern american, it was as real as heat or light. the crime of witchcraft is a heinous charge and of their -- and is up there with murder in something people feel as a possible existence. brian: i do not realize how often i would see the word "witch" and i want to show you a montage of places on tv where it is used. >> more in our continuing investigation into the witchhunt against the community group. >> that statement is dangerous. because of his vision were to
come true, we would be a nation of witch hunters. >> is a political witch hunt. >> a muslim witchhunt from mccarthyism. >> he should not be handling the investigation. it gives it no sense of credibility and is a partisan witchhunt. >> a partisan witchhunt does not quite add up. stacy: it was a seminal moment. brian: what is a which? stacy: and 17th century as defined was someone who was basically in confederacy with the devil and someone, usually a woman but not always, who signed a pact with the devil signed in blood which confirmed him or her
unnatural powers and with that she was off to recruit others to do diabolical deeds. sometimes she could transform herself into other animals and and into cats or dogs were a weasel. the menagerie to do her bidding. sometimes she could fly and bewitching your hay. or afflict your child. brian: you know, you know this of course, "the new york times" has been a lot of time on your book, good and bad. you had an interview sometime ago. and it only thing i want to ask about is the question, what was the most interesting book you read in researching "the witches: salem 1692?" recordssaid hands down and files of exits county massachusetts and its nine
volume glory. did you read all nine volumes? stacy: every single word. they are big but in all fairness, this is the catalog of offenses and abominations. it is i reading a tabloid newspaper except 17th-century style. you have people being prosecuted for debt and drunkenness and trespassing and fornication. it is heaven. women smashing constables on the head. men throwing their wives of the snow. every possible grievance the courts have dealt with prior to say law. -- salem is there and so is the granular detail of what massachusetts life was like and where the stress among these families and individuals are. what irritates them and who annoys them? how many times the pigs get in the corn? you get understand what preoccupies of these people. some of these people will
reappear later in witchcraft accusations. brian: where did you read them? stacy: most at the new york public library. brian: how long did it take? stacy: a long time but i kept going back. it is also addictive reading. i wanted to use in the book so i would go back to make sure i had every possible detail in place. brian: are they online? stacy: yes, i tend that i think they are. i tend to not to read online. for fact checking i think they were checked online. brian: at what point did you read them? stacy: part way through. i knew it would be a big large amount of material to get through. i usually start with primary sources, the witchcraft papers and i circle back to those sources by way of the larger context. and so these volumes very much reported that larger context. gauging the temperature and feel and sound of new england.
brian: one of your reviewer's said there have been 500 books written about the salem witch trials and 1000 phd -- what do you call them? dissertations? is that true? stacy: it seems that it will be three times that many. there is in a mourners -- no corner of american history so thoroughly researched. -- explored. brian: why would your publisher think it would sell again? stacy: it could be an elaborate ruse. this is a somewhat fresh take on the trials and that it is not it is a driven book but an idea. my sense is you can understand these people and take for granted the belief in witchcraft and get into their minds and homes, you can see how this actually could happen. it would not seem as distant and improbable and diluted as it otherwise sounds to us when you say bunch of people hang for witchcraft in 1692.
that was not something i do i know had been done before. and more of it, new things that kept appearing. there were other themes in this book, none of which i knew going in. all of which came to me in the midst of the research. from: we found this now 1997. it is "the simpsons." >> you are all here found guilty of the crime of witchcraft. i sentence you hags to be burned at the stakes. >> fire it up, boys. >> ha-ha. >> see you in hell, seymour. >> goodbye mother. >> how horrible. >> why don't they use their power to escape? >> that sounds like witchcraft to me. >> never mind.
>> that is 75 which is we have processed. that should show god who side were on. >> we have many more strengthens to incinerate -- strumpets to incinerate. stacy: that is quite a sentence. there are some pieces of that that are so very resonant. the tribal feel to somehow purging society of an element. may not smile upon. cotton mather, one of the young ministers at the center of the crisis and this is somehow a godly duty purifying society . which comes naturally to a puritan, it is a moral obligation. and this infestation of which is
es is as a sign of god's sprawling on new england. the devil has dissented on new england and a badge of honor to prove new england's piety. new england is being put through the trial because new england hates the devil the most. we are exceptional in some way. that's why we have been chosen to confront this satanic plague. and somehow that resonated with what you just aired which is amazing. brian: in the late 1600s, who did the people in salem think the devil was? brian: they think the devil is a real physical presence. elected --is an tch more -- alleged wi or less a witch more or less working with him. part of the accusations especially given the way we think of salem is that wealthy merchants were accused of witches and sea captains were accused of witches.
homeless five-year-old girls were accused. when some of those men become before the justices who ever years, known them for the justices will side with the girls rather than with their old friends. it is such a strange reversal here these teenage girls should . these teenage girls should be running the show and their words carry more weight than these long-established friendships to -- disintegrate in the hearing room. brian: going from back then today, could this happen today and what is changed in the system? this is a political network. it's a bit of a stretch but not because you keep going back to the way the law was then versus how it has evolved stacy: first . of all, we have a justice system. these trials were not held considered to what would be modern law.
innocent until proven guilty had not yet been -- was not yet in place. there were no lawyers by the way i should say at the time. the courtroom is extremely unruly place. that is one of it. you don't have to believe in witchcraft to prosecute witchcraft today. the piling on of that kind of mishap, the exacting sessions which happened in salem, the public shaming which we tended to do with the internet at our fingertips certainly resonates still with what happened in 1692. i like to think once the case gets to court, it would proceed, as in a 1692 case. there was a 100% conviction rate of that year for anybody accused. brian: in the pr they send out, i saw a sentence. it says "aside from suffrage, , the salem witch trials represent the only moment when women played a central role in
american history. again, she explores the difference between women and power. her questions about the same settlers resonate deeply, how do women express themselves when they are meant to be silent?" is that really true? is that you're feeling? brian: it certainly a moment when women's voices -- women were leading the way here. women are very disruptive presence in early new england. they had been for years. in this case, the girls' view, it trumps everyone else's account. i would have a hard time naming another moment where you have a group of teenage girls, except for joan of arc. a teenage girl whose word is taken to be sterling. they are not only accusing saying howey are
they think witchcraft should work. they are used as visionaries to diagnose witchcraft. people are bringing ailing relatives to them to say who is afflicting this victim. brian: what is the first instance in the late 1600s -- witchcraft, a lot of it before then, where did you start? with -- a long history of witchcraft prosecution so the idea comes to new england with the settlers. many of them from parts of new -- parts of england where witchcraft trials had been popular. this idea with them, what they do not have because by 1692, england is no longer prosecuting witches. with they don't have is any of the more recent literature which expresses skepticism about witchcraft and how it works. they are living in something of a time warp.
those volumes have not fully penetrated because the ministry has seen that they do not solve. previous cases about 100 cases prior in new england in only six, only hang six people until this time. one of the things that set salem apart is the fury for which this all seems to take place. brian: you have a very long book tour scheduled. stacy: i am glad you noticed. brian: what kind of questions are you getting from the audience that shows up at your event? stacy: i'm discovering that half of america seems to dissent from from some salem and the other half
starting "the crucible" in high school. how much all of us, part of the reason we remain obsessed because we first, contact as adolescence. is a story about adolescence. that seems to build on the other. i think the injustice of it is what -- injustice of it and the fact the mystery cannot completely be solved is what people come back to it. brian: why do arthur miller right "the crucible?" stacy: he saw parallels between mccarthyism and witchcraft. and what happened in 1692. he writes about interestingly. he goes to salem to research. he discover salem -- nobody would talk about it. in the 1950's, the subject was very much taboo. an incident like many
atrocities does not happen several generations after but in this case many generations after it did. no one is willing to engage in a conversation about it. he finds a strange echo of his own upbringing, the old testament voices he had known as a child in much of the witchcraft testimony which i thought was fascinating. brian: here he is a 1991 talking about it. >> what my play is about and what i think salem means or should mean is that here some people refused to compromise with the government and tell lies to save lives. we can be misled by appeals to a certain kind of purity of belief.
and politicians have no qualms about telling lies. it happens all of the time. they can very quickly generate a following among certain people by telling them if they follow him, they will even send behind. behind. elieve sin brian: that was 24 years ago. our politicians still lying? stacy: i have been living in the 17th century. i think there are people we could ask that question. i think the absolutist streak he is referring to is still very much with us. i do not think i know that. what is fascinating to me about that is the with salem if you confessed in 1692, you lived. if you insisted on your innocence, you hanged. brian: that came from a documentary called "witch city."
stacy: it is wonderful. it's about how salem cashes in on its witchcraft and commercialized its history. brian: when did you first read "the crucible?" stacy: i made it through high school without reading it. that speak to some terrible hole in my education. i read it when my kids read it for the first time. then i went back to it when i was working on the book. brian: you have a massachusetts history? stacy: i grew up in a small town in massachusetts which when you start to explore the relationship among families have known each other for many years and many years of unfinished business and talk about the generations that go back several generations, i had some vague understanding. brian: what was your town? stacy: i grew up in adams, massachusetts. brian: you went to williams college? stacy: i did.
i went to school in andover for several years. is the community most thoroughly decimated, hardest hit by the witchcraft. one in 10 people accuse. -- accused. i never knew any of them. that was a complete surprise to me when i went back for materials. i was in say them and andover repeatedly for about three years . brian: what are the most valuable archives? stacy: a great deal in the pbx museum. they have the bulk of which we would call the witchcraft papers. we have a hearing papers. there are about 1000 pages of arrest warrants in early depositions and execution orders, constables' reports. terrific stuff in the archives. richard trask has a fabulous archive including the church
, record book which is the minister. the witchcraft breaks out and a lot of other supporting documents. great 17th-century take. -- text. societyican antiquarian together at the bulk of the increasing cotton mather papers. there are terrific ministerial diary's from 17th century but we discover for example, minister who has kept a very meticulous account of every time he had his haircut or fed his horse. he will skip over 1692. you are reading through getting every detail of life and realize, wait, what i'm looking for is missing. brian: in my life, i remember cotton mather. i first heard about it and it seems to be the biggest name out of this book, maybe not. he was only 29 at the time. stacy: quite brilliant. the son of the most esteemed
minister in massachusetts. he is a prodigy. he graduated from harvard at 11 and preached his first sermon at 16. brian: what did it mean to graduate from harvard in the 1690's? stacy: you would be a minister. most of these men will become ministers. brian: would it be like going -- stacy: many started earlier than today. but still he was an exceptional mind. quite a brilliant man. in the course of his lifetime published more than 300 books. he's an astonishingly brilliant and accumulative writer. brian: what were the 300 books about? stacy: i have not read all of them but most are about doctrine and those sermons pouring out of him. brian: you were really tired of reading the puritan sermons? stacy: a study guide of. and sermons is probably not good
for your health. it is very exacting religion. very bleak religion. you are essentially living with an acute uncertainty as to what would happen to your soul. and it is a very difficult balancing act. you are living in a state of sin, heading from sin towards grace. a it is not a comfortable place to be under any circumstance. brian: what did you find? stacy: there are countless sermons. willard is one of the other ministers that samuel willard is another minister. he anticipates the crisis and writes one book and will write another one afterwards. he anticipates the crisis. brian: another video clip, "monty python and the holy grail." let's watch a this and get your reaction to it. >> what do you do with witches? >> burn them!
>> with you burn apartment which is? >> more which is. >> why do witches burn? >> because they are made of wood? >> good. how do we tell if she is made of wood? >> make a bridge out of her. >> can you make bridges out of stone? >> does wood sink in water? >> no. >> it floats. into the fire! >> what also floats and water? >> apples. >> very small rocks. >> cherries. >> mud. >> churches. >> lead. >> a duck.
>> exactly. so logically, if she weighs the same as a duck, she is made of wood. >> and therefore -- itch!whic [laughter] brian: you admit from time to time, no one is really figured all of this out? stacy: it will never get to the minds of the first afflicted girls. what were they linking and feeling? -- thinking and feeling? what they had and was not in evil spell upon them. them?s eckley afflicted don't you want to discuss at that? it is genius, don't you think? two things come to mind. the other joy of being able to accuse someone of witchcraft. there is a discharge certainly of whatever you want to call it there. and also the science behind it.
when you mentioned cotton mather, with the fascinations are these men are witchcraft experts and they have read voluminous shelves. we read a lot in new england. they have read a lot of witchcraft. very erudite men who knows the science. and the science of identifying witchcraft. what will happen throughout the trials people will be subjected is to very clinical tests and examined physically and what they could do the courtroom. one test almost as good as floating a witch was whether you could recite at the lord's prayer. shockingly, almost everyone who walks into her hearing room and is asked to recite the lord's prayer which is something a witch was understood not to do would stumble over the words. it tells you how stressful the procedure of being interrogated by authorities must have been. the only person who seems to
have been able to recite the lord's prayer is a minister who will hang hole on his way up the gallows will deliver a last minute sermon, a very fiery sermons. and he will flawlessly recite of the lord which will incite the crowd about what have we done. perhaps he is not a witch. a perfect set of procedures we we havea perfect set of procedures we can follow to figure out whether someone is in fact guilty. brian: when did it start in salem? stacy: early january are late february, two little girls, nine-year-old and 11-year-old starkey convulsed and twitch and shutter and shrieked and ultimately will hide in small corners of the room. the symptoms are more or less identical to symptoms described by cotton mather in a 1680 boston case of witchcraft when was afflicted.ly
and the woman who lay accused or who is accuse in that case will hang. that case is known to everybody in salem at the time. brian: how did the trials begin? what started that? stacy: at the time of the first of afflictions begin, there is no political administration in place in massachusetts who has -- which is been without a government for three years. it seems know what to try the case. it's a little unclear if the acting governor could have set up in court if he wanted to. a new governor arrives in may. the prisons are filled because ans has taken on and -- exponential life of its own. and he will set up a witchcraft court that will set up early in the summer to start to try the cases. he puts nine men, five who has to be in the room at each trial. the chief justice is acting governor who is a justice who
who is the best legal authority in the colony at that point. he will proceed according to british law at the time. brian: what were the ages of the people accused? stacy: everybody from a 5-year-old girl to an 80 year old. there was no -- there is a seeming randomness. some of our church members and some are wealthy and some are not. it will run the gamut. brian: who was allowed to bring the charges? stacy: the government is bringing the charges. the government is charging these people with a maliciously and feloniously practicing witchcraft. brian: how long were the trials for any individual? stacy: they seem to have been shockingly short. justice was fairly rapid. a trial could move very quickly. there is no counsel for the defense. there is very little back and forth.
the justices themselves act as a police interrogator. a lot of the testimony is written. people move quite rapidly. go through entire case, several cases in the course of one day. brian: once they were convicted how long did it take to be hanged? stacy: that is pretty swift. is we aree idea here about to eradicate a malignant force among us, the sooner the better. moreover, people in the jails, the massachusetts jails are bulging with accused witches. this is -- has all snow ball because there is no accord to adjudicate. they need to get on top of this and return matters to normal. they need to plow through with some speed. brian: here is another documentary clip from a documentary called "witchhunt" and is from the history channel.
the afflicted in salem through the fifth -- this in unity. this fact has led many to leave the girls were safely faking it. if the girls are not play acting, it is a deadly game. they can be accused of witchcraft themselves and hanged. pressured by a reverent to name -- reverend i to name the witch who is affecting them, abigail williams go to an obvious scapegoat. tichiba. documents describe her and her husband as indian, as they are slaves from barbados. she is dark skinned. dark like the puritans enemies. the wabanaki's. stacy: she is a slave who lives in the household and seems to
come from boston and lives with the reverend family. and his family. we know very little about her origins. she probably has lived in barbados with him earlier. he moves from barbados to boston to salem as she has gone to the . as she has gone to the history largely because of "the crucible." a sort of voodoo practicing enchantress who has told fortunes with the girls. more pertinently she is one of , the first three accused witches and she is only one of those first of three who will confess. so in the courtroom, the hearing room i should say, she will deliver story very early on of how there are nine which is a afoot and she is flown to boston and there are -- she hints at a conspiracy. she launches the story in action because once she confessed to witchcraft, it's undeniable it is at work. by the time the fourth person is
accused and says i am innocent, she is much less likely to be believed because someone else confessed. kitchaba will be interrogated and seems to be playing a sort of -- collaborating in a way with the justice who depose her. he is asking questions to wishes giving extremely publishes given the answers he wants. the questions are leaving and she is delivering bountifully. she will go to prison and nothing ever again proving consulted throughout the trial and will stay in prison longer than anyone else. 15 months. brian: how did you decide what to believe? what should we believe? this seems like a crazy story. where is the evidence? stacy: she says she got a -- on a pole and crashed on a
route. i'm fairly certain she was not telling the truth. one some intensifies they saw the devil and the devil at the second like cotton mather had ,escribed him in a printed book i got a sense of where he might have gotten the imagery. you see a lot of of seepage between what is being preached and what comes out in the court testimony. you also see a very odd echo between the political conspiracy tot have taken place overthrow the earlier governor. there had been a coup against the british governor and a lot of imagery from that coup will get replayed. i did i think it was a complete coincidence. brian: you mentioned cotton
mather and there is a show call "salem." a 30 second clip of cotton mather. >> the devil will never let a promised land be built without a fight, without a battle. witches armed with the deadly malice are the most malignant and insidious weapon of that. >> probably the smartest man on earth at that time. he was done with harvard by the time he was 14. he could speak eight language is. self-taught. brilliant. brian: the gentleman there is adam simon the cocreator of this , series. stacy: in the earlier witchcraft cases, the 1688 case the women , accused is also unable to say the lord's prayer but she seems only speak gaelic, one language that cotton mather did not speak.
he did not understand she was trying to say he may have spoken . he may have spokenmany languages but not some of the ones that might come in handy. a huge amount of evangelical mileage out of this. what fascinates with cause that cotton mather is the role he he played in 1692. one asks his opinion. afterwards, the belief in witchcraft will persist after the trials have ended. and people will continue to be bewitched until at cotton mather observe two will afflicted girls after the whole salem tragedy has ended and be very critical on what and he knows not to publish. very much invested in the he is stillvery much invested in the invisible world. still vested in the idea of witchcraft. he continues to believe and
things that were never published was that salem served a purpose. and what we consider to be a miscarriage of justice or a tragedy in fact had helped to fill the pews and wakened a young generation spiritually and nothing was lost the sites 20 innocent lives. brian: what was a puritan? stacy: somebody who do not believe the church was yet sufficiently pure and the work of the reformation was not complete. the religion down to basic essentials. brian: hundred people in the community were puritan? stacy: almost everyone. there are baptists and quakers, neither who fared particularly well. while the crowd was now looking, trying to establish a bible commonwealth. this is really a theocracy at this point. they look askew at it vital else practicing
another faith. brian: if you're alone that if you are young lady and watch other people be hanged, why would you believe the witchcraft? stacy: the belief in witchcraft is deeply rooted. the devil's existence is necessary to religion. faith in witchcraft and the devil go hand-in-hand. is privately possible to think the courts had prosecuted the wrong people which is what people seem to believe in 1692. witches may exist but that does not mean the court found the right ones. a wonderful, very equitable, fair-minded minister who writes -- he is one of the best sources on the trial and is one of the people to observe the girls in the early activities. he is of the belief that perhaps they have proceeded wrongly and perhaps have not been wise enough in how to identify a witch. maybe innocents have hanged but guilty parties have escaped.
brian: you have gotten quite a bit of publicity. in particular in "the new york times." why? what about "cleopatra"? i understand you sold as many as 800,000 books. stacy: that is what the publisher said. i have three children to educate and i'm very grateful. i cannot answer your question. i have not been reading the reviews, forgive me. i hope to. i have not been. i get a piece for "the new york times" about salem and embracing the story in the end. and i did a q&a with a book review. brian: a question about the q&a, and a note everybody watching has not read this. is that something you speak or
something you write out and give you the questions? stacy: you write out the answers. brian: you can control? stacy: to some degree. brian: when you asked a by your favorite authors, the same was you told us four years ago. stacy: i am very loyal. i tend to read to read the same books over and over. do we all do that or that a child childish thing i've never entirely outgrown? brian: one was a piece by alexander altern. you said everybody goes through a salem phase stacy: you do not? . brian: no, i did not. stacy: made i should say every -- many adolescent girl goes through of same phase. i think it's something you do. you cannot get too close to the supernatural as a kid and not salem. think about female thing. perhaps it is a more female thing. this is a crisis that is so much led by these adolescent girls. i do not know. a lot of people have said they had a salem phase. as did i brian: you said is . annoying to have the lack of
closure of the same instant that keeps us going back because we cannot make sense of the whole thing. stacy: i think there's gnawing feeling with us. it is true of many, the kennedy assassination would be another obvious parallel. those moments in history that seem to defy logic and diagnosis and being put perfectly to bed, tied with a nice, tight and so -- theory and a in particular because there are so many moving pieces and so many -- it is so texturally rich. brian: do you know jane kaminsky? stacy: i do not but i heard she did not write a nice review. brian: a snarky review on november 1. sunday,i will review some of it. stacy: you will be hitting me
with it for the first time. warn you. i think i should painful on tv. i do think you are to have a chance to answer what she is saying. "by on any measure, she is from harvard -- salem's crisis is more gripping than it was important. glib,witches" her compendious and often betting account of the events of that fateful year does a great deal to punch up the story but little to explore and less to understand its significance." stacy: i wonder what i did sort of previous lifetime? it gets a little bit to the idea of witchcraft. so many people are settling scores there are long-standing and wondering -- brian: what your reaction? stacy: historians have said this for years. terrie miller said it is a moment in history that utterly fascinating but has no other
repercussion. you can write the history of new england without mentioning salem and it will make note -- no difference. that is true to some extent. the resonance is what we see today. when national security threats are so much on our mind and terrorism is so much on our minds. the modern resonance painfully loud at times. brian: i would read more but -- stacy: how kind of you. brian: i wonder if there's a between -- difference between how a phd of harvard and somebody who's not a phd? we both know the answer that question. brian: schiff is called a menschenkenner? it's a tightly plotted character study. stacy: i do not know that word. i'm hoping you would spell it for me later.
i would consider high praise. like most of us read fiction, to get to the heart of human nature. brian: it gets better. brian: she writes us as if she wants us to know them as she does. that same longing for transcendence invites a powerful current of anachronism. takes mind at a time and time out of mind." stacy: that is interesting. what i am getting too, people have seen cardboard characters back at the people. i was trying to reconstitute them as not modern men by any stretch but people to who we could relate. findame failure to overriding reason for salem. the same conjuring of the inexplicable that still annoys
us. these people are trying to solve the mysteries of their lives. why did the horse run into the river? why did the child die? did it have something to do with the neighbor appeared at the door moments before? they are trying to make causal connections and solve mysteries. it seems to me a way of resurrecting them as real people is a way of accessing the story and making this whole incident make sense as opposed to looking at if they were walking characters in a thesis brian: . you consider yourself a story? -- historian? stacy: primarily i consider myself a writer. it is my job to make the reader want to turn the page. to tell a thrilling and cogent story. brian: i've got so many more quotes by will give you one more from this review. which i can see is a very pleasant experience. stacy: thank you. ksian: "when the witches til
as, it does and fits and starts, from why satan happen to white matters, or tenuous grip on the period comes loose entirely>" brian: what does it feel like having spent four years in the book and have somebody take a shot in "the new york times" like this? stacy: did we gave the same boy high school? brian: one last clip. the impact still in this world an international basis from august 8, 2015. this story coming out of india. let's watch. >> jacked out of their homes in >> five women dragged out of their homes in the dead of night. beaten with sticks and killed. just 45 kilometers from the
capital. the entire village had ganged up against them, accusing them of witchcraft. the five women were killed in front of their families. -- call themt which is. 50 people have been taken into custody from the village so far. according to government figures, in the last decade more than 400 people killed in witchcraft allegations, most of the women. brian: how much of this still goes on? stacy: sobering. it goes and apparently with some regularity. largely in africa. largely in the mideast i do i . i do i know that particular story. it tends to be crimes against women. it tends to be away of a lightning rod for anger against women. most of these are misogynistic incidents that are horrifying. brian: go back to the end of the trials and i want to ask you why
it stopped? stacy: it's not entirely clear why is stopped. a number of things come together you had a new governor in place. . he will never refer to the witchcraft without saying the witchcraft or possession. he does not seem to be entirely convinced that witchcraft, he is a very expedient. and and not a devout puritan. he is reached out by the end of the summer to the new york ministers. he does not feel as if he isn't the best of hands with the massachusetts ministers. he reshot far as opinion from new yorkers. they submit a more skeptical take on the whole trial process. the nature of the evidence is what is at issue. there's been a very eloquent petition for one of the accused who was essentially said where not getting our proper legal rights here. cotton mather's father has weighed in with a vote for mercy. and the numbers have become
almost impossible. it has become prosecute this many people. the accusations have reached a very high level and getting to be winter which is a very inconvenient time of year to be listening to the witchcraft testimony your mentor the home harvesting your crops and feeling your cellar. some coronation of these things come together. the trials are shut down. the skeptics can speak without accusations. which is what has happened earlier. brian: back to their review, one thing i wanted a cleared up. she said you had 8 researchers? stacy: that is astonishing. i do know how many i had. i had columbia students. them and i would pay give them a program set up at columbia. i would give them advice about what they were working on and
there we go xerox things for me or give me puritan sermons which elect to read in hard copy, not online. brian: puts it the cover of the screen and tell us where this cover comes from. it is up there. stacy: it was a photo shoot done by genius creative director and -- at has shipped -- at hachette. three girls who met in a downtown studio in new york all the dress was authentic. and they were put through a series of poses. the sins of having the asymmetry and emptiness to the side seemed to make more sense. brian: did you get to approve it? stacy: we got to talk about it but it was the publisher's call. the way the girls capture your eye and it's unclear from the title if it they are the witches
or who the witches really are seems to be a rather arresting jacket. brian: the last in your hear you had three children, still have to read? how old are they? stacy: 15, 22, 24. brian: and your husband lives in canada? stacy: that has not changed. he still does back and forth. brian: can you tell us about your next book? stacy: i cannot because when i come back, you cannot say i did not finish on time. no, but i'm open to ideas. brian: you finish on time. stacy: approximately. stacy: brian: and you have no idea what his next? stacy: i have a bit of a glimmer. once you start to go down that road, i tend tell fall hook line and sinker into the work. right now i want to be able to talk about the book and write about the book and i've done a couple of pieces based on the book recently and that is where i have been. brian: thank you, stacy schiff. the name of the book is "the witches: salem 1692." thank you for talking with us.
stacy: thank you, brian. >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments, visit us at q-and-a.org. programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ >> if you have enjoyed this week's q&a interview, here are some other programs you might like. oncy schiff's 2011 interview "cleopatra."
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