Frances Hill: Historian, Political Analyst
Frances Hill is the author of several books, including three on the Salem witch trials—A Delusion of Satan, The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials; The Salem Witch Trials Reader; and Hunting For Witches, A Visitors Guide To The Salem Witch Trials.
She was born in London and went to Keele University, Staffordshire, where she obtained a BA Honors degree in English Literature and Philosophy. After traveling in Europe and the US for a couple of years she worked as assistant to the blind Daily Telegraph editorial writer T. E. Utley, in London’s Fleet Street, and then as a reporter for the London Times Educational Supplement, writing about education and social work issues. In the 70s she moved to New York to work as American correspondent for the TES.
On returning to the UK, she became a freelance journalist while working on her first novel, Out of Bounds. For many years she was the radio critic for the TES as well as a fiction reviewer for The Times and feature writer for several other publications. Out of Bounds was published in 1985 and followed by a second novel, A Fatal Delusion, in 1989. Her acclaimed account of the Salem witch trials, A Delusion of Satan, was published by Doubleday in New York in 1995 and Hamish Hamilton in London in 1996. The paperback was brought out in England by Penguin in 1996 and in the US by da Capo in 1997. A new DA Capo edition appeared, with a new preface, in 2002. The Salem Witch Trials Reader was published by DA Capo in 2000 and Hunting for Witches, A Visitors Guide to the Salem Witch Trials, by Commonwealth Editions in 2002.
Frances Hill lives in London but visits the US regularly, spending every summer in Connecticut.
Such Men are Dangerous: The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004
Back in January, when Publishers Weekly saw an advance printout of Frances Hill’s new book, the magazine reported that it’s the first overtly political book Upper Access has published and called us an “inspired first timer” in that particular niche. Not surprisingly, this carefully researched, shocking book by a well-known historian has been drawing a lot of attention since its release in mid-March.
Here’s what Mark Pendergrast, author of Mirror, Mirror, says about Hill’s new book:
Such Men are Dangerous is that rare book—a work of meticulous scholarship that is also a passionate indictment of American self-righteousness and intolerance. Frances Hill’s point-by-point comparison of 17th-century Massachusetts and 21st-century Washington, DC, is chilling and thought-provoking. The witch-hunters are not only thriving-they are in power.
Most Americans, of course, would like to think that our modern-day leaders are more enlightened than the witch-hunting Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But are they? Is it possible that people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and even George W. Bush are just the modern-day equivalents of Cotton Mather, John Hathorne, and William Phips? Frances Hill finds a frightening resemblance, and hopes that by remembering the past we can avoid repeating it.
Much of what we know about the Salem witch trials is the result of Frances Hills meticulously researched books on the subject. To many, this seems to be a bizarre chapter of history that could never repeat itself in modern times. Yet that is exactly what is happening, Hill says. The events are, of course, very different. The Puritans twisted a popular fear of imaginary spectral forces to bolster their power and wealth. Todays neoconservatives are twisting the very real public fear of terrorism to bolster their ideological agendas, power and wealth.
We know how the story of the witch hunts ends. The modern equivalent is still under way, with far more chilling ramifications for the future of humanity.
What Critics are Saying
“In the flood of political nonfiction inspired by the Bush administration, Hill dares to get past complaining, actually making an intelligent case for learning from history.”
in Bookselling This Week
“In her chapters, Hill plays off the 1692 fanatics with those in 2004. Each section is remarkably lucid and clear. . . . Her analysis of the witch trials is authoritative and perceptive. . . . The “spectral evidence” of Mather’s day becomes the rumor and intelligence-gathering of the present day. The witches in prison suggest the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Hysteria drives all, and fear is the fuel these politicians thrive on. The real story here . . . is the American penchant of witch hunts in general, the demagogic rush to skewer scapegoats, rouse the body politic, and launch crusades against various axes of evil.”
“Frances Hill, in her book Such Men Are Dangerous, has drawn arresting parallels between the witchhunting pathology of Calvinism and of US neo- conservative politicians.”
“Hill posits that America at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with its poverty, lack of health care, overflowing prisons, and random executions, is a place of great savagery, comparable to Massachusetts at the end of the seventeenth century. According to Hill, the people running the country in 2004 are as self-righteous and inhumane as the Puritan leaders of 1692. That will be welcome reading to [at least] a segment of the American public.
“Author Frances Hill, who has written three previous books on the Salem witch trials, presents a peculiar thesis that at first blush seems outrageous: The times we are living in, as a nation, closely parallel—perhaps even mirror—the tenor, politics, hysteria, and overall cultural milieu of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1692, the era of the witch trials. She acknowledges, ‘Of course, the witch hysteria of 1692 and the terrorist attacks of 2001 were very different events, in that the witches were imaginary and powerless while the terrorists were all too real and inflicted terrible harm.” However: “In both incidents, leaders of government . . . saw no way of responding but with violence. They saw no outcome but total victory or defeat. Both believed God was on their side against evil. . . . And, as a result of both incidents, some of those leaders had an unforeseen chance to pursue their own cultural and personal agendas. They could use the public’s panic and gullibility to achieve their own ends. As a result of both incidents, the rights and liberties of citizens were sacrificed and countless innocent people suffered.’
“Hill goes further, drawing specific congruencies between principal government officials in 1692 and 2004. The ‘intellectual’ minister Cotton Mather bore an astonishing similarity in character makeup and formative childhood background to Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Massachusetts Bay Governor William Phips had quite a bit in common with G. W. Bush. Each administration even had a conspicuous moderate who was ultimately forced to tow the party line: Judge (and diarist) Samuel Sewell in 1692, and Secretary of State (and autobiographic) Colin Powell today.
“Oddly, Hill is quite convincing about all of this. Her writing is breathlessly sharp and incisive, and her research is thorough, impeccable, and amply footnoted. The book reads like a thriller and stands as a walloping indictment of a government run amok, with far-reaching and bone-chilling implications for our future.”
“Such Men are Dangerous: The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004 is a chilling commentary that compares political figures such as Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush with the ideologues of 1692 colonial America who led the Salem witch hunts. Comparing the government’s manipulations of American reactions to September 11th with the Puritans’ twist on popular fear of ‘spectral’ forces to commit murder and bolster their own wealth, Such Men Are Dangerous takes a bold stand but is chilling in its uncanny comparisons. A scathing expose that forces the reader to take a cold, hard look at America’s current leaders.”
Additional information about Frances Hill can be found at her Web site, www.franceshill.net.
Journalists planning reviews or articles about the book Such Men are Dangerous: The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004 may request review copies and related materials by contacting the publisher. The contact person is Steve Carlson, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (802) 482-2988.
She is also available for broadcast interviews, as a guest who can discuss one of the most fascinating episodes of U.S. history and provide articulate, witty up-to-the-moment commentary on world events. Interviews are easiest to arrange for American media during the summer months when she resides in the US, but telephone interviews can be set up any time. To make initial arrangements for an interview, contact Steve Carlson at Upper Access.