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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

The Enemy Within

Dr John Demos

2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World

The term “witch-hunt” is used today to describe everything from political scandals to school board shake-ups. Long before the Salem witch trials, women and men were rounded up by neighbors, accused of committing horrific crimes using supernatural powers, scrutinized by priests and juries, and promptly executed. The belief in witchcraft — and the deep fear of evil it instilled in communities — led to a cycle of accusation, anger, and purging that has occurred repeatedly in the West for centuries. Award-winning historian and Professor of History at Yale University, John Demos, puts this cultural paranoia in context. He takes readers from the early Christians persecuted in Rome through the Salem witch trials, McCarthy’s hunt for communists, and the hysteria around child sex-abuse cases and satanic cults in the 1980s. An original and fascinating look at the cultural, societal, and psychological practice of witch-hunts, Demos illuminates the dark side of communities driven to rid themselves of “evil,” no matter what the cost.

Book signing to follow the lecture.

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