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At Day's Close: A History of Nighttime

A. Roger Ekirch

5 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, History, General & world history, Social & cultural history

A fascinating and colourful social history of the nighttime in the pre-Industrial era.

At Day's Close charts a fresh realm of Western culture, nocturnal life from the late medieval period to the Industrial Revolution. The book focuses on the cadences of daily life, investigating nighttime in its own right and resurrecting a rich and complex universe in which persons passed nearly half of their lives - a world, long-lost to historians, of blanket fairs, night freaks, and curtain lectures, of sun-suckers, moon-cursers and night-kings. It is not only the vocabulary that has disappeared. At Day's Close will restitute many facts which have been either lost or forgotten. It is a significant and newsworthy contribution to social history, filled with substantial research, stories and new discoveries. Ekirch uses a wide range of sources to reconstruct how the night was lived in the past: travel accounts, memoirs, letters, poems, plays, court records, coroner's reports, depositions and laws dealing with curfews, crime and lighting. He has analysed working-class autobiographies, proverbs, nursery rhymes, ballads and sermons, and folklore, as well as consulting medical, psychological and anthropological papers.

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Praise for At Day's Close: A History of Nighttime

  • Ekirch's absorbing history reveals an alternative universe shaped by real and imaginary perils. - SUNDAY TIMES (23/4/06)

  • This enlightening book ... is one of the most fascinating and rewarding literary experiences you are likely to discover this year. - HERTS & ESSEX OBSERVER (11/5/06)

  • Wonderful... Ekirch spares no pains to rediscover the lost world of the dark. ... A book that can't be summarised but must be experienced. - LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS (9/3/06) - David Wootton

  • Night-time has been curiously ignored by social historians. This fine book corrects that lack. ... Entertaining and informative, this book is also challenging. - THE TIMES (25/3/06)

  • Just the sort of browsable treat guaranteed to cause insomnia. - THE SCOTSMAN (29/4/06)

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A. Roger Ekirch

Professor A. Roger Ekirch was born in 1950 in America. He teaches at Virginia Tech. On the basis of his research into the nighttime, Ekirch was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.