||The political, social and ecclesiastical anxiety and fragility of colonial New England was manipulated by two opposing groups‒the Radicals and the Conservatives‒both of
whom helped cause, and exploited, the 1692 witchcraft crisis in Salem, Massachusetts. I identify the “Radicals” as a group of mostly young, female and poor individuals both instigating and reveling in the breakdown of an oppressive community. They were experimenting with a world turned upside-down, a grand social experiment both echoing and inverting the Puritan experiment Salem was built upon. The very society that oppressed them, Puritan New England, had set a precedent for dissent and the formation of a new, radical, society. I will argue the opposing group, the “Conservatives,” consisted of older, mostly male
figures trying desperately to maintain the establishment. I will argue that their interpretation of the actions of the possessed was proposed with specific intent and was formative in the continuation of the crisis. The crisis was, therefore, not an inadvertent consequence of their fractured society, but a fulfilment of the desires of each group.