Event—Adult Education

The Enemy Within: Witch-Hunts in the Western World


“Witch-hunt” is a term we’ve been hearing in recent news. Where did this term come from? How can we contextualize it historically?

Witchcraft at Salem Village. Engraving. The central figure in this 1876 illustration of the courtroom is usually identified as Mary Walcott. From William A. Crafts (1876) Pioneers in the settlement of America: from Florida in 1510 to California in 1849. Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

Hardly a day goes by without cries of "Witch-Hunt" in the news. So the time has come to explore the history and meaning of witch-hunts. Because they have left an indelible mark on our history, the Salem Witch Trials will be part of the story. But what happened in 1692 was only one in more than two centuries of witch-hunts in Western Europe and America.

This class will explore that history, as well as what happened after 1692, at which point we—well, perhaps most of us—stopped believing in witches. The common theme in witch-hunts in history is the search for the enemy within.

Bryan Le Beau, adjunct instructor in the Doctor of Liberal Studies Program at Georgetown University, earned his PhD from New York University. He is the author of several books on American cultural history, including the recently published third edition of his book on the Salem Witch Trials.

Materials List


  • Bryan Le Beau, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. Routledge Press, 2023, Paperback. ISBN: 13-978-0-367-62717-1

First Reading

  • Please read the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the recommended book, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials.

Cost and Registration

Four sessions, $226 ($203.50 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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