Synopses & Reviews
NIGHT TIME--the forgotten half of history--spawned a remarkably vibrant culture with its own rules and rituals, scents, sights, and sounds. In the preindustrial age, daytime and nighttime were separate worlds--with daylight's departure people entered a dark realm of real and imagined perils. But darkness also offered people freedom from their daily lives, and multitudes drew fresh strength from the selling sun. Crime, fire, and evil spirits; navigating fields by starlight; evening gatherings to spin wool and tales; masked balls and night-cellars: magic ancestral lore, and prayers; midnight liaisons and bundling; dissolute aristocrats and rebellious slaves; the rhythms of sleep and dreams--all these and more are interwoven in A. Roger Ekirch's enthralling study based on twenty years of archival research. Beautifully illuminated by a color insert and with black-and-white illustrations throughout, this compelling narrative is panoramic in scope, yet fashioned on an intimate scale and enriched by personal stories.
"Engrossing, leisurely paced and richly researched, this history finds Ekirch reminding us of how preindustrial Westerners lived during the nocturnal hours, when most were plunged into almost total darkness. By describing how that darkness spelled heightened risk of stumbles, drowning, fires and other dangers Ekirch accounts for the traditional association of nighttime with fear and suspicion, illuminating the foundations of popular beliefs in satanic forces and the occult. He also describes how the night literally provided a cloak of darkness for crimes and insurrections, and how fear of the night sometimes led to racist blame and accusation. A professor of history at Virginia Tech, Ekirch ranges across the archives of Europe and early colonial America to paint a portrait of how the forces of law and order operated at night, and he provides fascinating insight into nocturnal labor of masons, carpenters, bakers, glassmakers and iron smelters, among many others. The hardest nocturnal workers were women, Ekirch writes, doing laundry after a full day's domestic work. Ekirch also evokes benign nighttime activities, such as drinking and alehouse camaraderie; the thrill of aristocratic masquerades; the merrymaking of harvest suppers and dances. A rich weave of citation and archival evidence, Ekirch's narrative is rooted in the material realities of the past, evoking a bygone world of extreme physicality and preindustrial survival stratagems. 8 pages of color and 60 b&w illus. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Beautifully illuminated by a color insert and with black-and-white illustrations throughout, this compelling narrative of night is panoramic in scope yet fashioned on an intimate scale and enriched by personal stories.