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It is important to understand the situation at Salem before 1692 and how it led to the outbreak of the witch trials. Salem politics played a key role in the events which occurred in 1692, which is now well known as the Salem witch trial. Salem was mainly divided into two factions: Salem village and Salem town. The former was further divided into parts that wanted to free from the domination of Salem town and those that did not want it. It has been recorded that this factor created hostilities that eventually led to the Salem witch trials (Hill). Foner concluded that the hostilities and jealousies between the factions played an important role during the Salem witch trials. It was a struggle to gain independence from Salem town that triggered the events which led to most villagers being accused of possessing witchcraft.
Salem Witchcraft Trials continue to perplex non-academics and historians alike over four centuries after the event occurred. The incident invokes images of unbridled abuse of power, persecution, discrimination, religious bigotry, and the dangers of a society that is possessed by irrational fears. Whereas many researchers have attempted to provide their explanation of the episode, it remains a scientific mystery, because not a single elucidation has been universally accepted. What is intriguing, however, is that while the researchers have concentrated their attention and efforts on social, literary, and historical interpretations, very few of them have paused to ponder the adverse economic impact of the trials. Indeed, the role the event played to destabilize the thriving economy of Salem is an issue of special interest to economists and the entire society. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the episode destroyed the economy of Salem. The paper will also deeply investigate and present a comprehensive historical interpretation of the subject under discussion. The Salem witchcraft trials hurt the region's economy, because they made some people poorer, adversely affected human labour, and resulted in a situation when some individuals depend on others. The Salem witch trials, therefore, brought adverse economic impact, led to degraded living standards and introduction of stringent and authoritarian government policies, and brought sufferings to the prisoners.
Adverse economic impact
The economy of Salem was negatively affected by the policy that stipulated that incarcerated persons had to pay for their board and food expenses before securing freedom. Nevertheless, the economic consequences of the Salem trials were severe not only to the incarcerated individuals but also to their families. Even after the completion of the witch trials, numerous people were still kept in prison, since they were unable to pay for the expenses incurred so that they could get freedom (Schiff). For breadwinners, this meant that they could not provide for their families, which negatively affected their welfare with regard to basic needs and other critical aspects such as education. The authorities required that prisoners needed to reimburse the authorities for the cost of the food they had paid while being in prison (Brooks). In view of this, the prisoners could not be freed unless they or somebody else paid for the expenses. According to the information gathered, the Salem witch trials damaged the economy both by imprisoning convicted witches and applying measures that affected their lives even after completing their sentences. Apart from this, the governments move to confiscate any property belonging to convicted persons did not take into consideration that family members heavily depended on them.
Correspondingly, the government of that time confiscated the property of the people that were found guilty of witchcraft. Frequently, this left families without money or even a home. This situation caused income inequality among the inhabitants of the region. While one may argue that it affected the persons whose family members were imprisoned, current research indicates that there was a negative impact on the economy as a whole (Sherman). According to Sherman, the concentration of income among some people (not all) results in a reduction of economic growth due to the lessening of the overall output that contributes to a regions gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, unemployed relatives of imprisoned individuals became a burden to the rest of the society, and this aggravated a situation with a dependency that negatively influenced the economy and standards of living The above-mentioned information helps to get an insight into the issue since although people and the government could not have avoided it due to the social tensions, some measures could have been taken to prevent the region from deviating from its economic course. Whereas the authorities reasoned that the move would disarm and punish convicts and discourage them from repeating similar activities, in reality, it only aggravated the situation by cutting the income sources for the rest of the family members.
The witch trials also adversely affected the economy as they had a bad effect on the structures and land that surrounded the trial areas. The reason is that the fields and houses were left unattended, which meant that some people in Salem village could not sell their cash crops to their neighbours in Salem town. Before the trial began, villagers used to cultivate their land and market their products and get money in exchange. This money would help them to perform other critical economic functions such as buying household items and land machinery. Such intrusion into their normal lives demonstrates the hard economic times they endured due to the trials. Indeed, not only have the poverty levels among some Salem residents increased but also they became unable to provide for their fundamental needs (Maiwald 4). This information shows that although the trials did not intend to affect the economy, the trends and requirements, such as paying for prison fees that followed, could not escape hurting it. In this sense, interpreting and viewing the trials from an economic point of view promises to extend peoples knowledge and possibly enable them to avoid a similar occasion, although this is unlikely to happen in the modern world (Brook). Certainly, it was within the government's mandate and responsibilities to protect its citizen's welfare and avoid possible ramification, some of which may be irreversible such as, for instance, deaths among imprisoned persons. Due to the authorities lack of understanding of the importance of maintaining a robust economy, it had to face multiple problems, which, however, may also provide some lessons to contemporary decision-makers.
Crop failures coupled with epidemics such as diseases continued to trouble Salem years after the completion of the trials. The implications were severe to such an extent that Puritans believed the events were taking place because God was punishing the land for killing innocent people (Schiff). In view of this, the authority ordered that the region observes a day of prayer and fasting in a bid to seek forgiveness. While the evidence aimed at showing whether the situation became better after the prayers remains scanty, a lack of agricultural produce in Salem village played a central role in affecting the areas economic standings (Schiff). The reason is that the inhabitants of this region were poor farmers who could hardly earn their living by planting and selling their crops. It comes as no surprise that the trials put the authorities on a collision path with numerous people being opposed to it and who possibly had developed an understanding of how it could affect their income levels, human resource capabilities, and overall production (Brooks).
Loss of human power
The decision made by the authorities to jail convicted witches deprived the region's economy of its human resources that contribute to its growth. Human resources play a critical role in achieving the development of a given region or country. As natural resources and other similar productive resources continue to be inactive in nature, it is the responsibility of human resources to mobilize them. People, on the contrary, form a significant part of the intellectual capital in terms of talent, skills, knowledge, and experience. This indicates that even if some of the imprisoned persons were really engaged in witchcraft, there is a chance that they also practised other activities that helped to boost the economy of Salem. Consequently, their jailing reduced any economic activity they could engage in; particularly, if it helped their family or community at large. In other words, the imprisonment reduced the possibly long and productive lives of many people and hence hurt the region's economy. The economic concerns grew as Salem exposed the government's inability to differentiate between cultural norms and the economy. Unquestionably, the event was a fundamental testing ground for the authorities economic policy and the wellbeing of the society. This historical interpretation is based on the fact that the government of that time ought to have understood the implications of the trials and attempt to control them if they discovered that it would hurt peoples lives, their income, and their freedom as well as their duty to the region.
Interruptions to daily activities
Some people, even those who were not accused of being witches, suffered as their daily chores and business matters were negatively influenced by the chaos triggered by the trials. This neglect was present not only during that period but also during the following years. The entire colony suffered as individuals were so determined to hunt out and destroy witches at the expense of performing their important daily duties (Brooks). They had forgotten to take care of fences, barns, and roads and as a direct consequence, a tax became higher and food resources became scarce. Due to this, people mortgaged or sold their farms to settle prison fee in the first place and then to pay taxes. As a result, some people could no longer cultivate and depended on other manual jobs that were also difficult to secure (Brooks). These trends foreshadowed a slow but steady decay that ultimately erased Salem Villages walls and houses but never its memory and name. The information gathered reveals that high taxes that the government demanded from the people forced some of them to sell their pieces of land to pay them. As a consequence, some people no longer owned land to plant crops and sell them to Salem town attempting to support their families. In reality, this was only the beginning, the indication of harsh economic times that were in front of them. Moreover, the selling of land and abandoning of productive activities was the omen of hard times that would follow and impact peoples lives ranging from the food they ate to the household items they used.
It is indisputable that the witchcraft trials played an instrumental role in the economy of Salem for fact they have adversely affected it. It is clear that before and during the trials, authorities lacked knowledge of the way the event would influence the areas economy and this explains the reason why they insisted on following the move in spite of the obvious negative effects. The imprisonment, requirement to pay fees and high taxes, and selling of land are the main factors that lead to the crumbling economy of the region. Notwithstanding the significance of protecting the welfare of Salem, the government focused more on punishing accused witches and consequently totally disregarded its mandate. To bring some improvements to the area, it behoved the authorities to be attuned to the different critical sectors in the land and discover how any move would affect the people. By doing this, they would mitigate any possible negative implication that would endanger the lives of the local residents. As the research has identified, much of the impact on the economy was attributed to human decisions, and before the authorities could eliminate unfavourable effects, lasting damage to the area's fortunes was already inflicted.
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