Laurie Winn Carlson

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A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials

In the late winter and early spring of 1692, residents of Salem Village, Massachusetts, began to suffer from strange physical and mental maladies. The randomness of the victims, and unusual symptoms that were seldom duplicated, led residents to suspect an otherworldly menace. Their suspicions and fears eventually prompted the infamous Salem witch Trials. While most historians have concentrated their efforts on the accused, Carlson focuses on the afflicted. She offers a compelling argument that the “bewitched” victims in fact suffered from an outbreak of encephalitis, similar to an epidemic in the early twentieth century, called encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness, which affected five million victims worldwide.

“Carlson’s study is meticulously researched, and the author marshals her arguments with clarity and persuasive force.”
--New Yorker

“A unique blend of historical epidemiology and sociology...Carlson makes a good case.”
--Katrina L. Kelner, Science

“Provocative, informative, and dramatic, Carlson’s presentation of a fresh theory of the causes for the 1692 Salem witch trials is packed with epidemiological evidence and studded with convincing figures and maps.”
--Providence Journal

“Laurie Winn Carlson has written a medical mystery that will intrigue both the epidemiologist-historian detective and the lay reader interested in how pathogenic microorganisms can manipulate society.”
--Robert S. Desowitz, Professor of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina

“What an intriguing hypothesis! Laurie Winn Carlson’s ideas had me up, pacing and thinking, until the wee hours.”
--Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague

Selected Works

Thomas Edison for Kids
A biography with activities and experiments for young readers. Chicago Review Press, 2006.

On Sidesaddles to Heaven: The Women of the Rocky Mountain Mission
The lives of the first six white women--missionaries--to cross the Rocky Mountains in the 1830s.

Seduced by the West:
Jefferson’s America and the Lure of the Land Beyond the Mississippi

A provocative look at the nation and personalities surrounding the Lewis and Clark era.


A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials
“innovative... impressive... persuasive”

--Publishers Weekly

Cattle: An Informal Social History
The curious and wonderful story of the animal that changed human history.

University of Missouri Press, June 2005.

NEW! William J. Spillman and the Birth of Agricultural Economics

Created by The Authors Guild

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