“New England’s Other Witch Hunt: The Hartford Witch Hunt of the 1660s and the Changing Patterns of Prosecution.”
Walter Woodward, Connecticut’s State Historian, will be making a presentation based on his just published book, Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. The presentation will take place on the Connecticut College Campus in Blaustein 210, on 11 April at 2pm, in a program co-sponsored by the Connecticut College history department and the New London County Historical Society.
The book is full of provocative insights. While some are familiar with alchemy, the common knowledge is usually limited to the idea that alchemy was a magical quest to turn lead into gold. Woodward leads us to understand how alchemy was much more than that, “an important contributing factor in the development of modern chemistry and experimental science.” In this work Woodward shows how Winthrop’s alchemical knowledge, and connections emanating from his participation in the Royal Society, empowered him locally, as a favored Connecticut governor, and at the Royal Court in England.
Combining religion, metallurgy, healing, an entrepreneurial spirit and political will, Woodward is able to enlighten the reader with how those elements intertwine. Winthrop’s efforts to found a NEW London was an attempt to create an outpost of scientific research in the wilderness.
Winthrop’s knowledge and authority as a political leader gave him the power to put a brake on witchcraft trials in Connecticut — while he was in the colony.
Too frequently our view of colonial New England culture is limited to puritans as religious zealots locked in a battle with the wilderness. This book jostles that outlook placing a proto-scientific lens on that world and placing Connecticut’s early history within the framework of an Atlantic World Economy. All too often, historians have assumed Connecticut was just like Massachusetts; this work challenges that concept giving us new insight to the past, our local past. This book shines a bright light on southeastern Connecticut.