An NPR Weekend Edition feature from October 2007 discusses author Jay Winik's book about the burst of revolutionary upheaval around the world in the late 18th century. An excerpt from Winik's book vividly describes one man's death in the Salem witch trials and compares life in colonial New England to life in Europe at the same time.
"But Giles Corey's brutal execution was not some aberrant punishment concocted on the fringe of the Europeanized world, where, a mere seventy miles away, Indian war parties were murdering colonial farmers in their fields. No, here in this budding paradise of liberty, Corey died by means of a centuries old, rather conventional European punishment, popularized by Henry IV and named the peine forte et dure, and employed as a standard sentence for those who refused to submit to the state's will. In such ways, big and small, did the hand of the old reach out to touch the new. The waning decades of the seventeenth century remained, for a majority of mankind, the bleakest of times."