Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe (New Studies in European History) Hardcover – 30 Jun 2011
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'Koslofsky's epic history of the night reveals a revolution: how stage lights remade theater, how Lutheran mystics penetrated the night, how witch hunters fought the devil on his own nocturnal turf, how racism mirrored the presumed iniquity of blackness, and how street lights pacified cities. Readers will find surprises on every page.' Edward Muir, Northwestern University
'Koslofsky plays skilfully with the oppositions of light and darkness, day and night, to reveal dramatic changes in both the social and the symbolic worlds of early modern Europeans. This is a sensitive and [thought-provoking] synoptic study, of very great interest for all students of European society, thought, and culture.' Robin Briggs, University of Oxford
'Evening's Empire is a remarkable foray into a long-neglected dimension of early modern history: Europe's conquest of darkness and night time. Craig Koslofsky convincingly proves that the transition to modernity and the emergence of the public sphere cannot be fully understood without taking the 'colonization' of night into account. An enlightening study, in every way.' Carlos M. N. Eire, Yale University
'Ambitious … a valuable study, and a genuinely supranational one, of the way in which nightlife in the modern sense was created, as the essentially urban phenomenon it remains. It was, as the author clearly shows, one expression of the increasing self-confidence and aggression of early modern European humanity.' Ronald Hutton, The Times Higher Education Supplement
'Sometimes the most obvious and important historical subjects are among the least explored … Craig Koslofsky's thoughtful and imaginative study of the experience of the night for early modern people goes some way towards redressing that balance. It is, in a word, enlightening.' Literary Review
'Craig Koslofsky has given so much in this consistently stimulating, cogently argued and elegantly written book.' Tim Blanning, The Times Literary Supplement
'This is a tremendous read, full of human stories and suggestive argument. Like many of the best history books it makes one pause for thought not only about the past but about the present too.' BBC History Magazine
'Evening's Empire offers a fertile and richly European account of deep and sometimes unexpected cultural associations … This is a valuable contribution to the history of the everyday and, especially, of the experience of temporality.' History Today
'Any book worthy of the Longman/History Today prize should be elegantly written, exhaustively researched, profoundly original and methodologically bold. Craig Koslofsky's Evening's Empire is all of these … [it] is worthy of the widest possible audience, a work that stands alongside that of Jurgen Habermas in the light it sheds on our understanding of the transformation of the public sphere and the origins of modernity.' History Today
'… a triumph of detailed, patient scholarship, clearly and enthusiastically communicated. It imparts considerable subtlety of texture to the fresco of the pre-industrial night so vividly painted by Ekirch in particular. Consequently, it should remain authoritative for decades to come, influencing scholars of literature as well as history.' H-France Review (h-france.net)
'… learned and imaginative …' Keith Thomas, Common Knowledge
'… this ambitious book is a remarkable achievement, illuminating early modern European history from a new and original perspective …' Central European History
'Koslofsky's work is impressive for its elegant model, a clear depiction of change over time and in the great variety of sources used.' Elizabeth Tingle, European History Quarterly
This illuminating guide to the night opens up an entirely new vista on early modern Europe. Using diaries, letters, legal records and representations of the night in early modern religion, literature and art, Craig Koslofsky explores the myriad ways in which early modern people understood, experienced and transformed the night.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Is it difficult? In a couple of sections towards the end it does become a bit social-sciency - and I'm not sure it's a huge loss that drunken violence and robbery was forced out of the public sphere at night during the 17th-18th century - but this does not reflect the majority of the book. It is not quite as readable as a straightforward narrative history, but it's hardly the sort of dense academic text of which you can manage no more than a page a day.
Is it a dry work? Not at all - one professional reviewer remarked (I think it was in the BBC history magazine), there is a fascinating fact on almost every page.
This is not really a narrative history, but has more of a narrative than you might expect. Essentially, the upheavals of the Reformation undermine the old medieval contrast of night=bad, day=good (leading to some fine mystical theology); meanwhile the secular rulers try and demonstrate their power by lighting up the night; 'nightlife' then spreads from the aristocrats to the middle-classes, who use this newly available time and space to invent the Enlightenment and science and Blackadder the Third. At the same time, the rural night is harder to conquer, and older customs and attitudes survive (although you might want to keep out of the forrest after sun-down...)
At the same time, the world is not that neat, and some 'threads' of the story are left
But the joy of the book is in the details:
-how 'evidence' of witchcraft began with reflections of folk practices
-how theology discovered the positive use of darkness
-the domesticated darkness of the baroque theatre
-links between the latter and portrayals of the Restoration
-baroque manipulation of light and darkness and royal imagery
-the origins of nightlife
-policing the night (and clearing it of troublemakers like students!)
-sex and courting in rural 17th century Europe
If Jorge Luis Borges were alive, he would have loved this book!
It turned out to be a disertation...poorly written and with no clear line of thought.
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.
or reference.It's nicely illustrated , and very readable( mostly) but is just a wee bit too pedantic in places for the general reader . A version without the notes would probably sell well!
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