10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, but hard going at times,
This review is from: Evening's Empire (New Studies in European History) (Paperback)
This is a very insightful and unusual book about changing attitudes to the night in Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. I found the sections on the night at court, the rise of street lighting, the colonisation of the urban night, and the attempts to colonise the rural night particularly interesting. The ironic attachment of organised religion to ghosts and witches - because scepticism of these might lead to atheism - is also well laid out. The book combines narrative and anecdote with some fairly hefty analysis, which is where things can get tough.
Koslofsky makes few concessions to the casual reader, making regular use of academic terminology without any explanation or simplification to assist the non-expert. Key concepts are introduced with a few pithy sentences - which must be great if you are a historian but often left me floundering and in need of further elaboration. This can make the book somewhat hard going, especially in the sections on religious attitudes to the night and 'darkness and the enlightenment'. At times, it feels as though the book is aimed entirely at an academic readership and is not meant for the general reader at all. References to other studies can be confusing, as it is often not clear (to this layman) whether the author is referring to a contemporaneous or modern view. There is also a fair bit of repetition, which makes me wonder whether this was originally a series of separate essays that have been stitched together.
Still, this is worth a look if you want a different perspective on the life of people living in the early modern period. Just don't expect to have your hand held.