book-reviews

At Day's Close: A History of Nighttime

by A. Roger Ekirch

Rating: ★★★★

A very gently amusing read, filled almost entirely with interesting quotations from contemporary sources, relating to their experiences of nighttime and man's nocturnal activities in the years before the rise of artificial light. Ekirch evidently has a large and diverse collection to work from, and he uses a light touch to arrange the material into a coherent structure and explain it, cleanly and unpretentiously bridging the gap between interesting experiences related to particular topics.

It is a rewarding read. Nighttime activity is quite broad, and reading about it across the targeted period teaches you about such varied topics as the night watch's social status, vast swathes of criminal activity, popular conceptions of night as a special type of air, 'bundling' practices, and biphasic sleep patterns.

Delivering exactly as it promises, a very readable history which offers up the rewards of some diligent scholarship.