1. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Witch hunts

    Discussion in 'Research' started by R-e-n-n-a-t, Nov 11, 2010.

    What was the extent of weaponry and technology around the time of the Salem witch trials? I know there were low-tech guns, but what other weapons were [still] in use? What was the extent of infrastructure such as medical care or waste disposal? Did people have outhouses by then or were they still just throwing stuff in the ditch? Normally I'm pretty good with history, but this is a big foggy area for me, which is really unfortunate because I consider that time period very interesting. Sorry if this is a really stupid question, I'm not generally this ignorant of the past.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Outhouses, yes.
    Weaponry...I think they used torches...pitchforks...mobs with blunt objects..etc. There was a lot of mob mentality going on during the SWT. And yes, guns and rifles were around. I'm 95% sure.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, there were no rifles then, but there were 'long guns' that did not have 'rifled' barrels...

    the flintlock was invented in the late 1600s and the witch trials took place in 1692-93...

    the girls who were supposedly having fits due to being victims of witchcraft were first examined by doctors to see if there was any physical cause...
     
  4. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, no rifles. There were "flintlock" muskets and also what was called a "matchlock" musket.
     
  5. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    They would have had long rifles, but I'm pretty sure they didn't go around shooting witches and werewolves then. They would have arrested them, brought them to trial, and tortured them into confessing.

    I'm pretty sure they had outhouses. As for medicine...not sure. This part of history isn't my cup of tea either.
     
  6. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Roughly, that period in history was still basically an agrarian society, local farms supplied the food that fed the community. Outhouses were common, as were such things as wells (no central water source for the whole town).

    Windmills or waterwheels ground grains, local butchers were the source of meats and kin/neighbors usually ran the local leather works, taking the skins of the animals that were butchered, tanning them and crafting them into everything from boots, clothing, belts, backpacks, saddles and custom pieces as required by their customers.

    Regarding meat, there is no refrigeration in the 1600s (in the winter months you may be able to store meats and perishable in the outside snow), so trips to market for meat, eggs and perishables was every day or two (Daily in the heat of summer time).

    It was an era of artisans and craftspeople who hand made tools, articles and items for their customers (The industrial revolution was still a few centuries in the future).

    The town buildings and homes were constructed by labor gangs of carpenters and stone masons, all with hand tools (no electricity) and no construction vehicles (Think shovels and axes, not bulldozers).

    The were armed with knives, swords, axes, muskets, matchlocks (The popular mental image of a Spanish Conquistador, with his breastplate, morion helmet, saber and blunderbuss is fairly accurate for this era).

    Lighting came from oil lamps and candles made from bees wax and tallow. Cooking was done in pots over open fires and in brick ovens heated by burning wood or coal. The cast iron "pot belly stove" invented by Benjamin Franklin came about in the 1700s, not the 1600s.

    Transportation was provided by your feet, or a horse/ox drawn wagon or cart.

    Civilization stank to high heaven in the 1600s. It is a misconception to think of an agrarian farming age as having fresh air in a pre-air pollution, non-industrial age. All of the herds of farm animals take a dump every day, all of those huge farm fields are fertilized with something and the primary mode of transport, the horse, takes its dump while walking. The folks who live there are certainly used to it, but it might be rather shocking to modern folk.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    only long guns, not rifles, which weren't invented till later...
     
  8. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    My apologies, I'm not very educated about weapons. I thought "gun" and "rifle" were synonymous...Oops!
     
  9. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    @ MissPomegranate: For future reference, you may find it useful to know a bit more about guns. Rifled barrels have grooves on the inner surface of the barrel, to put a spin on the ammunition and improve accuracy. A modern gun that does not have this is a shotgun, which is one reason you never see shotguns used for long-distance accurate shooting. Movies generally get this right, at least, which is why shotguns are used with pellet shot for bird hunting (in the hope that one of the many tiny lead spheres will hit the critter) or with large shot for zombie shooting.

    You will often hear references to "sniper rifles" because of the additional accuracy conferred by the grooves in the barrel. The idea of a "sniper shotgun" is basically a contradition in terms. Incidentally, cannons often had rifling added, too, since it could take several minutes to load another shot (as shooting cannons too quickly might lead to overheating, and then the cannon might explode) and you didn't want to waste the shot by missing your enemies. They figured the more accuracy, the better, where cannons were concerned.

    @ R-e-n-n-a-t: Lothgar covered a great deal, but I can add a bit more.

    Local production would account for most tools and furniture, including things like wooden barrels, butter churns, brooms, milking stools, rope and string / yarn, shelves, and ox yokes / horse collars. Finely worked things -- fancy lanterns, glasswork, and jewelry -- and odd materials such as unusual metals, spices, tea and such would have to be imported or brought in from other towns. Most metalworkers would buy ingots and shape those, assuming there was no iron mine nearby. Iron would be commoner than steel for everyday tools.

    Medicine was primitive. We're talking about things like "purging the ill humours" by cutting open a vein and letting you bleed until a half liter or so of your blood was in a basin, and curing ill cows of fictional diseases like "worm i' the tail" by cutting the tip of the tail off. Leeches and herbs would also be tried, as well as prayer. Children could have serious problems from typhoid, polio, smallpox, scarlet fever, measles -- some of those diseases could leave you deaf or blind for life or unable to run.

    Germ theory didn't exist, although people knew not to drink regular water even if they didn't know about bacteria and parasites in the water making them sick. So beer was common -- it contains alcohol which kills off germs. Cider, and milk from cows and goats, and wine, and tea and juices were all "safe" to drink, and drunk often. Even kids drank beer.

    Re: refrigeration not existing, as Lothgar mentioned -- people stored what food they could in other ways. Meat could be salted, bread could be twice-baked ("pilot bread" or "hardtack" or crackers or "waybread" was the result), fruit could be dried or made into cider / perry or put into jams and preserves. Milk was turned into butter and cheese. Meat became sausage, or was smoked, or was put into a separate building to be kept cool. Grain was stored whole-seed in sacks, or rolled (like oats) into oatmeal, or milled into flour and kept in barrels. Rats and mice and mealworms could ruin flour, render it nigh-inedible -- and in a long hard winter sometimes the mouse-dropping-filled-flour would be used anyway because they couldn't afford to toss the calories away. Cans weren't around yet, so "canned beans" and "canned fruit" and all that just plain didn't exist. Instead, veggies were dried or pickled or stored "in the ground" (i.e. half dug up and covered with straw until you wanted to eat them), and beans and peas were shelled and dried. Garlic and onions were braided by the leafy bits, and hung up in thick pungent braids to dry until they were needed. Squash and pumpkins were separated from the vine and kept in a cool dry place (like an attic or a root cellar) until they were used.

    Potatoes were considered bad for a while -- unhealthy, I mean. God knows why; we're talking people who wouldn't eat lobster because they were "giant insects," even though lobster wasn't that hard to catch. I don't know precisely when the meme spread that potatoes were okay to eat. At that point they were stored like squash, kept in a cool dark dry place until they were needed. The nice thing about potatoes is that they would grow when practically nothing else would, and large potatoes can be quarters (cut into fourths) and each fourth can grow a new plant the next year.

    There was a ridiculous amount of superstition. Remember, modern science just hadn't happened yet, not really, and certainly not for common folk. Regular people believed in God and angels, devils and curses and hexes and evil magic, and random rituals. "Bad air" caused colds and pneumonia. Working on Sundays could bring bad luck, as could walking under a ladder or seeing a black cat cross your path. Ghasts and ghosts may not have been precisely Church canon, but people would have been concerned about them a little anyway. Pacts with the Devil really would sell your soul, condemning you to Hell.

    And society was rigid in some ways. You didn't disobey your parents without repercussion, or speak out against the local Church, or commit adultery, or work or play on Sunday, or contradict your parents or a community elders, or do "women folk" things if you were male, or "men's things" if you were female. A girl riding a horse? No. A girl wearing pants? No. Women wouldn't be likely to lead in the church, or at home; a widow who didn't remarry but who raised the kids on her own would be frowned upon and considered suspect.

    As to the attitudes of the time:

    Misogyny goes back more than two thousand years in Europe, since the Greeks decided that female fetuses were "incomplete" and that, for varous reasons, this meant women would always instinctively seek to have sex all the time, and would be so focused on sex that they couldn't be given positions of responsibility. (I'm not kidding. Aristotle was brilliant, but holy cow his "observations" about men and women screwed the XX chromosome owners over.) This belief persisted into Roman times and into the Italian Renaissance and even afterward. So women in the Colonies were still part of this tradition, and were considered inferior, inherently sinful, and highly unreliable and liable to panic and deceive.

    These beliefs seriously warped the society. Widows who didn't marry were considered unnatural, because a woman couldn't really be a functioning person without a son, husband, or father there to "guide, instruct and supervise." It's no coincidence that many of the accused "witches" were widows or young women who weren't properly obedient or interested in settling down wth a family. Others of the accused were women who dared to speak out or speak up or defend themselves in public (a relic of the old Roman law, wherein women were legally not persons and were not allowed to defend themselves in court; this became Western tradition, and continued after Rome fell).

    Note that the people at the time considered all of this normal. They didn't know how the "women are inferior" thing had started; if asked, they might have cited Eve's example, or just claimed that "life has always been this way." So you can have characters who are still good people in other ways, even if they belittle or threaten or insult or abuse the women around them in order to make sure they don't "step outside their proper place."
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    rifle - definition of rifle by the Free Online Dictionary ...
    a. A firearm with a rifled bore, designed to be fired from the shoulder.

    gun - definition of gun by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus ...
    A weapon consisting of a metal tube from which a projectile is fired at high velocity into a relatively flat trajectory.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And to expound upon that, a rifled bore is a bore with helical grooves machined in to impart a radial spin to the projectile (bullet), which improves range and accuracy
     

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