Emerson Woods Baker II

I am one of department’s two public historians, meaning I teach a variety of courses on topics like museums, archaeology, material culture, and architectural history - courses  that relate to historians working in the public sphere. Before coming to Salem State I was an historical archaeologist and director of the Saco Museum and Dyer Library. I continue to stay involved in these fields through consulting for area museums, and directing ongoing archaeological excavations. I am the past Chair of the Maine Cultural Affairs Council, the Maine Humanities Council, and past vice-chair the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.  

See my formal C.V.

Most recently, I have served as an advisor to We Shall Remain, a mini-series on The American Experience on PBS television. I have also worked on the PBS series, Colonial House. I have also contributed to the Colonial House Web Site.
My principal area of interest in seventeenth-century New England, in particular on the transmission and
adaptation of English regional culture to a New World.
 Most of my archaeological fieldwork and research has centered on Maine, a place where English, French and Native American cultures collided. As such, much of my research also involves Native American as well as Canadian history. I have also directed excavations at the John Balch House in Beverly, Massachusetts.

My current research project is a history of the Salem witch trials to be published by Oxford University Press in their Pivotal Moments in American History series. This book will not only try to make sense of the outbreak but also show how this tragic event has shaped the subsequent course of Salem's and America's history.

In writing my book I hope to better understand why Salem is known as "Witch City," rather the founding town of Massachusetts Bay and the home to Roger Williams, Samuel McIntire, Nathaniel Bowditch, Nathaniel Hawthorne and so much more incredible history.

My most recent book is The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England. It tells the story of a bizarre case of witchcraft in 1682, on Great Island, New Hampshire focused on the repeated attacks of "Lithobolia" or "the stone-throwing devil." More on The Devil of Great Island

Devil of Great Island
My previous book (co-authored with John Reid), The New England Knight, is the biography of  Sir William Phips, a Maine native who would rise from humble origins to become the first American to be knighted by the King of England, and first royal governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Successful treasure hunter, would-be military conquorer, and governor who ended the 1692 Essex County witchcraft outbreak, Phips led a remarkable life.  Read a review of The New England Knight  

The work on Phips, and my work in Salem has led me to pursue some research and develop a graduate course on witchcraft, magic, and popular culture in early New England. I also consult for Parks Canada and the Province of Quebec who excavated a ship which was part of Phips’s 1690 fleet that attempted an invasion of Canada.

In 2005 I was honored to give the commencement address at the graduation ceremony for the graduate school at Salem State College. Click here to read the commencement address

I live with my wife, our two daughters, and our basset hound in our 200 year-old home in York, Maine.

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