atdayclosebook

“Is a Brighter Earth a Better One?,” Morning Edition, NPR, December 21, 2006

At Day's Close: Night in Times Past

Praise and Reviews

- Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society Prize (“Best subsequent book”), 2007

- Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction, 2006

- Charles Smith Book Award, 2006, Southern Historical Association, European Section, 2006

- Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award for Excellence in Faculty Research, Virginia Tech, 2006

- An Observer Book of the Year, 2005

- An Amazon Editors’ #3 History Book of the Year, 2005

- A Discover Magazine Science Book of the Year, 2005

- A Longman History Today Best Title, 2005

- #1, Ian Marchant, “Top 10 Books of the Night,” Guardian

“This is an irresistibly fascinating book. It has a hypnotic feverish pace that will have its readers up all night wondering, expectant.”
- Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker

“This is a jaw-dropping piece of scholarship investigating what Europeans have been up to under cover of darkness over the last 600 years. Ekirch spent 20 years researching what he calls ‘the missing half of history’, and he's not going to be bettered for a long time.”
- Ian Marchant, “Top 10 Books of the Night,” Guardian

“An enthralling anthropology of the shadow realms of Western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. . . . [Ekirch] weaves his own Bayeux tapestry, but instead of stories of warrior bishops and court dwarfs, he wants to tell us about privacy and police power, torture and summary courts, the physiology of sleep, the sociology of prostitution, and political and religious heresies. . . . an informed and passionate case against too much artificial light.”
- John Leonard, Harpers

“Ekirch’s  fascinating ethnography of the night in northern Europe from around 1500–1750 describes a period when urbanization led to a more anonymous society, witchcraft beliefs prevailed, crime soared, and the night became villainized. This period was followed by a new era of science and lighting, turning the night into time for public entertainment: song, dance, theater and literature, and ventures outside the household. Throughout the darkest of ages, however, night intimacy, stories, and the transmission of cultural traditions via myth, history, and religious practice persisted behind barred doors.”
- Polly Wiessner, Professor of Anthroplogy, University of Utah, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

“A. Roger Ekirch has written a fascinating book, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, which recovers the rhythm of daily life in ·the early modern era when darkness was still normal. He shows that during the night society did not entirely close down, nor did all activities cease. Rather, there was a division between activities possible only during the day and those consigned to the night, with a firm sense of two different realms of experience.”
- David Nye

“Drawing on a wide array of sources--from diaries and letters to proverbs, poetry, and philosophical treatises -- At Day's Close offers nothing less than a new way of thinking about the social and cultural history of the early modern era. Eloquently written and beautifully illustrated, this is a rare book that will be read both for pleasure as well as for erudition.”
- John Jefferies Martin, Renaissance Quarterly 

“Another great reference is undoubtedly A. Roger Ekirch, illuminating in the broadest sense premodern night with his extraordinary At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (2005). Ekirch reconstructs the material and social conditions of darkness in Europe from newspapers, testimony, legal sources and creative works of all kinds between the late Middle Ages and the dawn of the industrial age.”
- Jorge San Miguel, “Brief History of Light,” Jot Down Cultural Magazine (Madrid)

“A. Roger Ekirch has rescued us from our glaring ignorance with a whole book on night. It is the product of immense research and it is charmingly written. He apparently has read everything published in Europe and North America in the past half-millennium, sifting through hundreds of history books and articles, diaries, letters, law cases, criminal trial records, and medical accounts for bits of information. This is a book that is constructed, well-constructed, of bits because very few of us have written about the night per se.”
- Alfred W. Crosby, Technology and Culture


“This book offers a formidable coverage of early modern night in literature, epistolary prose, and the popular press, with a comprehensive treatment of social, economic, and cultural domains shaped by and during nighttime. It is divided into four parts (or twelve chapters) that treat night as a phenomenon with profound social consequences and as a trope with the capacity to inform ideas, behaviors, morality, and social practices of all description. . . . fascinating . . .  A compelling but also a complex account of early modern night. On the one hand, it is a depopulated sphere, ruled by retreat, privacy, and rest. On the other, it is a sphere teeming with activity and protest of those for whom darkness was a preferred stage of action. For miscreants, vandals, scholars, dissenters, gamblers, and fugitives, night was the “part of day” that enabled rather than thwarted. It was a refuge for those vampiric actions otherwise instantly annihilated by light.” 
- Vladmir Jankovic, Eighteenth-Century Studies

 “Ekirch’s volume merits close reading for its fascinating interpretation of the other half of early modern times, for it careful analysis of evidence, for its rich narrative, and the kinds of questions it raises. . . . This highly original work is a wonderful read and a sound panorama to a long neglected aspect of history.”
- Michael j. Galgano, Word History Connected

“By chance some four years ago I read A. Roger Ekirch’s magisterial At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, which charts nocturnal culture in the pre-Industrial Revolution world of Europe (and, to a lesser extent North America). In a world understood through magico-religious or superstitious lenses, there is much to fear in the dark world of night. There is also a now-lost culture of middle-night travel and visits; all was not gloom and doom, footpads and robbers. I mention all this as a sort of background to Monteverdi’s—or any composer’s—Vespers:  facing another night, the musical setting of the Christian service is both a thanksgiving for another day completed and a plea for seeing another dawn rise.”
- Cashman Kerr Prince, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

- “Stargazing in Tenerife, one of the best spots in the word, reminds me of a book I love, At Day’s Close by arekirch.”
-
Rachel Barton Pine, concert violinist.

- “Of the many books on darkness published over the past decade, A. Roger Ekirch’s At Day’s Close (Norton 2006 ) remains the best and most lyrical.”
- Clark Strand, Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age (2015)

“A brilliant and original book.”
- David Hackett Fischer, University Professor, Brandeis University, quoted in the Columbus Dispatch

“Engrossing . . . a fascinating piece of social history.”
- Fred D. Atchison, Jr., Manhattan Mercury

“Richly evocative . . . an astonishingly ambitious work . . . This is best enjoyed under a warm reading lamp in the ‘dead of night’ . . . when the pleasures of its fascinating details and skillful writing are most seductive . . . a brilliant piece of scholarship.”
- Peter C. Baldwin, Common-place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life

“Ekirch helps us vividly imagine night without light in his fascinating book . . . . At Day’s Close makes one yearn to experience the nighttime so richly detailed is his book, and to lament as he does, our insistence on a well-lit 24/7 universe, where night and day are often indistinguishable.”
- Lisa M. Stepanski, Journal of Popular Culture

“A fascinating panorama of social history.”
- Wirtschaftsblatt (Vienna)

“Apart from Ekirch's serious engagement with and borrowing from the existing historiography, what makes his study both valuable and pleasurable to read is his eye for the telling detail taken from the numerous primary sources he consulted, among others, judicial archives narrating nocturnal incidents and pre-modern compilations of proverbs highlighting popular attitudes towards the nighttime. . . . With its perceptive and original insights into a neglected object of study, the book will prove helpful for specialists in the literary, cultural, social, and gender history of early modern Europe.”
- Philippe Vervaecke, Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone

 “A work that makes a major impact on our understanding of the social history of this era. . . . This lively and lucidly written book uses a vast array of source materials from across Europe and the American colonies, making particularly noteworthy use of diaries. In addition, Ekirch deftly includes recent work from the biological sciences to help his readers understand diverse physiological aspects related to human experiences of nighttime, from changes in eyesight, through circadian rhythms. This is a fascinating book which sheds important new light on the social history of the early modern era.”
- Susannah Ottaway, Journal of Social History

“For Ekirch, the night – even before public lighting, mass transportation, and the introduction of official police forces changed it forever – has been a hubbub of activity, a sequence of comings and goings, a bustling fiefdom with its own distinct customs and rituals. . . . to a remarkable degree, he has reclaimed that portion of the circadian cycle which historians have traditionally neglected.  He has emptied night’s pockets.”
- Arthur Krystal, The New Yorker

“At Day’s Close is uncommonly welcome, for it covers ground that just about all others have ignored. . . . Ekirch, who teaches history at Virginia Tech and who writes exceptionally well, has spent a couple of decades on this book, with impressive results.  The range of his research is both broad and deep.”
- Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“Ekirch has written a book that anybody with any imagination will find fascinating, but one that is the mirror image of conventional popular history. He has a beady eye for the tiny anecdote, the telling vignette, the mini-narrative, but these events don’t drive his story onward, for it constantly circles back on itself. The whole book is an essay in interpretation, . . . and yet, flickeringly, the dead come alive, as if stepping out of the darkness into the circle of light cast by a lanthorn. . . .  wonderful, for Ekirch spares no pains to rediscover the lost world of the dark. . . . a book that can’t be summarised but must be experienced.”
- David Wootton, London Review of Books

“Absorbing. . . . fascinating . . . . [Ekirch] has plundered an extraordinary range of cross-cultural sources for his material, and he tells us about everything from witches to firefighting, architecture to domestic violence. . . . [a] monumental study.”
- Terry Eagleton, The Nation

“Simply fascinating.”
- Ross Douthat, The American Scene.com

“Professor Ekirch has produced a book of exceptional range and originality.  His investigation of nocturnes in pre-modern civilization spans literature and social history, psychology and the history of thought.  This is a pioneering achievement of a rare order.  It truly casts light on absolutely vital spheres of darkness.”
- George Steiner, Extraordinary Fellow, Churchill College, Cambridge University

“A vivid panorama of nighttime customs in city and country, among peasants and courtiers. . . . At Day's Close relentlessly makes clear how much our comforts separate us from previous generations—and how much our conquest of night has cost us in fellowship and imagination. . . . Stands with other pioneering scholarship on natural phenomena . . . that has taught us how much culture needs nature, perhaps more than the other way around.”
- William Howarth, Preservation

“An absorbing social history of nighttime in pre-industrial society from the Balkans to the British colonies of North America . . . a wonderful revelation of a vanished age of darkness.”
- Raymond Carr, The Spectator

“A tour de force.  Throwing shafts of light onto nocturnal life – its dangers, intimacies, rituals, laboring patterns, class affiliations, and gradual transformations – reveals a whole new world only dimly seen before.  Thanks to this pathbreaking and compelling work, pre-industrial nighttime now has a history.”
- Philip Morgan, Harry C. Black Professor, Johns Hopkins University

“A magisterial history of nighttime.”
- Jay Walljasper, Ode Magazine

“In his fascinating survey of the dark hours of the pre-industrial era, A. Roger Ekirch takes us deep into an age when the very lack of light threw life into confusion. . . . Ekirch’s profound understanding of the period provides such enlightening details. . . . this engrossing book illuminate[s] the darker recesses of the past.”
- Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph (London)

“Night-time has been curiously ignored by social historians. This fine book . . . corrects that lack. . . . Entertaining and informative, this book is also challenging.”
- Ross Leckie, London Times

“What happened at night in times past?  Who did what at night?  How did people cope with darkness and the perils of violence and fire?  What were the rhythms of sleep and the forms of nighttime sociability and intimacy?  Ekirch illuminates the worlds of darkness in early modern Europe and America with clarity and rich documentation.  At Day’s Close is the result of years of study, and it’s a revelation.”
- Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“Ekirch's absorbing history reveals an alternative universe shaped by real and imaginary perils.”'
- Sunday Times (London)  

"Given pseudoscientific doomsday theories of galactic alignment and geomagnetic reversal and Nibiru collision and all, metal can certainly look forward to an eventful 2012. What's more metal than the End of the World, right? Unless it's the Return to Darkness, as typified by the recent phenomenon of cities like Highland Park, Mich., and Rockford, Ill., extinguishing thousands of streetlights to save money at a time of fiscal crisis, and scores of other municipalities now considering the same option. Here's Virginia Tech history professor A. Roger Ekirch -- who in 2005 published a book called At Day's Close: Night in Times Past -- in a recent New York Times streetlight switch-off essay: ‘Before the Industrial Revolution, darkness conjured the worst properties in man, nature and the cosmos -- brigands, witches, and rapacious beasts were thought to lurk everywhere.’ How metal is that??”
- Chuck Eddy, “Top 15 Metal Albums,” Rhapsody Music         

“As A. Roger Ekirch reveals in this wise and compendious history of nighttime during the early modern era (c.1500-1750), the reason why the night had such a bad reputation was because it undermined the social order that prevailed during the day. . . . [his] command of the material is impressive. . . . truly is a labour of love. . . . The book’s most fascinating revelation is that our ancestors experienced what Ekirch calls ‘segmented sleep.’”
- Ian Pindar, The Guardian (London)

“Ekirch paints his picture with affection as well as learning. . . . [an] extraordinary book.”
- Jonathan Ree, Evening Standard (London)

“Night and day Ekirch’s history of darkness is the one – massive, original, and completely enlightening.”
- Steven Ozment, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History, Harvard University

“On a grand historical scale. . . .The book is especially engaging on the social significance of the night, the moral meanings projected into the dark.”
- Financial Times (London)

“A triumph of social history.  Almost every page contains something to surprise the reader. . . the great achievement of At Day’s Close is precisely its invasion of privacy: it shines a torch through the curtains of our ancestors and gives us a glimpse of them at their most vulnerable.  Watching them blink back is one of the most enjoyable literary experiences of the year.”
- Damian Thompson, Mail on Sunday (London)

“A wonderfully monomaniacal undertaking: a study of how night affected (mainly) European societies before the advent of street and, in certain instances, domestic lighting. Ekirch is folklorist, criminologist, psychologist. The mass of graphic detail is gripping.”
- Jonathan Meades, The Observer
(London)

“Meticulously researched. . . At Day’s Close is a splendid book. . . great entertainment, and to social historians it will be of immense value.”
- Sir Patrick Moore, Times Higher Education Supplement

“This enlightening book ... is one of the most fascinating and rewarding literary experiences you are likely to discover this year.”
- Herts & Essex Observer

 “A fascinating history.”
- Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

“A can’t-put-down volume . . . . Ekirch succeeds marvelously. . . . research shines in every paragraph.”
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[Ekirch] carries us into the night, both literally and metaphorically. . . . [a] truly valuable book.”
- Decatur Daily

At Day’s Close is not only distinct (one is hard-pressed to think of another book like it) but also consistently entertaining. . . . an elegy for times past.”
- Columbus Dispatch

“The best sort of bottom-up history, taking nighttime – half of existence – and rendering it new and strange and full of marvels.”
- Houston Chronicle

“A panorama of the night from the 16th through the 18th centuries, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean.”
- San Francisco Chronicle

“Rhythmic and often poetic prose. . . . a fascinating book. . . . We have forgotten what that dark reign was like, but ‘At Day’s Close’ does a marvelous job of bringing it back to life for us.”
- Raleigh News & Observer

“To us today, nightfall is a time to turn on the lights.  But of course it was not always so.  Ekirch’s richly researched and entertaining study, At Day’s Close, reclaims for history the half of past lives that was lived at night, in partial or total darkness, at work and at play, in stillness and in motion, in solitude or in shared reflection.  Perfect reading for insomniacs and stargazers alike.”
- Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History, Yale University

“A detailed, nuanced and sophisticated book that never gives up the mesmerizing story at the center, one that will keep you turning pages.”
- Blue Ridge Business Journal

“Now and again a book can be called amazing.  Here is such a book.”
- Winnipeg Free Press

“Nacht en ontij is a glorious book. . . . captivating.”
- De Morgen (Brussels)

“How people survived the night when there was no electricity? Crept shivering under the covers until the day dawned? None of them, says the American historian Roger Ekirch in Nacht en ontij. It was night of many activities. A book to stay awake for. “
- De Standaard (Brussels)

“Rigorously researched. . . . an impressively original book.  Ekirch’s primary achievement here is in giving the distinct culture of night its first real history, and cataloging what strange creatures we become after dark.”
-Brad Quinn, Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)

“At Day's Close . . . has been getting some of the most enthusiastic reviews of the year. This is the sort of life's work that you wish every book could be . . .  the result is a vivid account, rich in surprising anecdote. . . . the sort of book that, paradoxically, brings the past closer by showing how radically different it was from our own time. You'll never look at nighttime the same way once you've read it.”
- Tom Nissley, Amazon.com Senior Editor (one of three nonfiction books featured by Amazon for the month of August 2005)

"In a sociocultural history as brilliantly originial as it is richly detaliled, A. Roger Ekirch re-creates nocturnal life in the preindustrial West, in an age before science and technology conquered the darkness, quiescence, and dangers (real and imagined) of nighttime."
- Barnes&Noble.com, “Our Editors Pick Their Favorite Reads," 2005

“Engrossing, leisurely paced and richly researched. . . . A rich weave of citation and archival evidence, Ekirch's narrative is rooted in the material realities of the past, evoking a bygone world of extreme physicality and preindustrial survival.”
- Publishers Weekly

“Persuasively demonstrates . . . that darkness in earlier eras fostered a distinct culture with many of its own customs and rituals. . . .  A fascinating tale.”
- Kirkus Reviews

“This innovative, scholarly book offers a fresh perspective on early modern Europe. . . . Ekirch (Virginia Tech) is at his best (which is very good) when he shows how the mentality of the peoples of early modern Europe differed from today’s, as readers of his passages on courtship, witchcraft, and prayer will discover.  Gracefully written and richly illustrated, this work is strongly recommended.”
- Choice

*Starred Review* “A fresh and thought-provoking cultural inquiry. Drawing on works of literature, letters, diaries, and criminal court documents, and maintaining throughout an infectious sense of wonder, Ekirch ignites the reader's imagination. . . . vividly evokes the old magic of true night.”
- Booklist (American Library Association)

“A fascinating book.”
- Torstem Harmsen, The Berliner Zeitung