The True Story of an American Witch-Hunt

Suzannah Lipscomb and Malcolm Gaskill

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Malcolm Gaskill and Suzannah Lipscomb explore the dark tale of a Massachusetts witch-hunt.


This is an online only event hosted on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

The birth of colonial America was marked by hope and hard work, but also anxiety and fear. On the remote plantations of the American frontier, settlers clung to popular beliefs from old England – portents, charms and the power of the devil. Witch-hunts were rare, but sometimes exploded with terrifying ferocity, among people convinced they were under demonic attack.

Drawing on previously neglected sources, Malcolm Gaskill’s new book The Ruin of All Witches explores witch-hunting in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1651. Through the history of a single family’s tragedy, Gaskill sheds light on the harsh life of the New World, a society caught between supernatural and rationalist ways of thinking.

Featuring readings by actor Isabel Pollen. 

Praise for The Ruin of All Witches:

‘Breath-taking ... a great story, exquisitely told’
The Times

‘This is one of those rare history books that stays with you and haunts you long after you have turned the last page. Superb’
The Sunday Times

‘The narrative is as compelling as a campfire story’
The Financial Times

Malcolm Gaskill is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. One of Britain's leading experts in the history of witchcraft, his works include the highly-acclaimed Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy and Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans. In 2010, Malcolm was a visiting fellow in North American studies at the Eccles Centre of the British Library, where he conducted research for his book Between Two Worlds. In November 2021, Allen Lane published his most recent book The Ruin of All Witches.

Suzannah Lipscomb is an award-winning historian, author, and broadcaster. She is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Roehampton, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a columnist for History Today. She holds an MA, MSt, and DPhil from Lincoln and Balliol Colleges, Oxford. She has written five books, presented numerous history documentaries, and hosts the Not Just the Tudors podcast.

Isabel Pollen has appeared on stage as Laura Jesson in Brief Encounter (Haymarket Cinema and Birmingham Rep); Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (Rose Theatre Bankside); and The Observer, An Enemy of the People (National Theatre). Television appearances include Law and Order, Holby City and Casualty. She has performed on radio in The Raj Quartet and on film in Joan of Arc and The Observer.

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Name: The True Story of an American Witch-Hunt
Where: Entrance Hall
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Online Full Price: £5.00
Online Member: £5.00
Online event w/book (The Ruin of All Witches) UK postage: £23.00
Online event w/book (The Ruin of All Witches) Non-UK postage: £27.50
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546