Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe

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What does it mean to write a history of the night? Evening's Empire is a fascinating study of the myriad ways in which early modern people understood, experienced, and transformed the night. Using diaries, letters, and legal records together with representations of the night in early modern religion, literature and art, Craig Koslofsky opens up an entirely new perspective on early modern Europe. He shows how princes, courtiers, burghers and common people 'nocturnalized' political expression, the public sphere and the use of daily time. Fear of the night was now mingled with improved opportunities for labour and leisure: the modern night was beginning to assume its characteristic shape. Evening's Empire takes the evocative history of the night into early modern politics, culture and society, revealing its importance to key themes from witchcraft, piety, and gender to colonization, race, and the Enlightenment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 throught-proviling 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 nighttime. 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

"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 Review

"… [a] consistently stimulating, cogently argued and elegantly written book."
Times Literary Supplement

"Koslofsky has mined rich and varied sources - letters, diaries, municipal archives, art, periodicals - from France, Britain, and especially Germany, to produce this engaging and inventive work. He possesses an acute historical understanding - which means that he’s ever sensitive to the foreignness of the past."
Ben Schwarz, The Atlantic

"… 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."

"This is a sweeping book, and its arguments work best in broad, evocative strokes. Much of the revolution here boils down to discrete changes in elite thought or fashion that then helped to reshape broader culture. Koslofsky is to be commended for stressing the limitations, ambiguities, and sometimes outright dichotomies of such developments, even as he argues for their extraordinary impact."
Michael D. Bailey, Renaissance Quarterly

"… 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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521896436
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2011
  • Series: New Studies in European History Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Koslofsky is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His previous publications include The Reformation of the Dead: Death and Ritual in Early Modern Germany (2001).

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Table of Contents

1. An early modern revolution; 2. Darkness and the devil, 1450–1650; 3. Seeking the Lord in the night, 1530–1650; 4. Princes of darkness: the night at court, 1600–1750; 5. 'An entirely new contrivance': the rise of street lighting, 1660–1700; 6. Colonising the urban night: resistance, gender and the public sphere; 7. Colonising the rural night?; 8. Darkness and enlightenment; 9. Conclusion.

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