[Book Review] At day’s Close: Night in Times Past

Back in the day, History Channel used to show, you know, actual shows about history. Now we have pawnshops, gator hunters, and truckers, among others. But that’s for another post. I have since moved onto H2, which I can only get with Comcast’s (or Xfinity, or whatever they are calling themselves now) upgraded digital package. But at least there, the shows are by and large about history in some way.

One gem of a documentary I caught a few times was Afraid of the Dark. I really enjoyed the show, which highlighted several reasons why humans are, or have been historically, well…afraid of the dark. Included were the devil, being eaten alive, the supernatural, and for some reason, vampires and monsters seem to get their own category (not sure why it wasn’t lumped with supernatural, but, okay). Apparently, it’s not super easy to find a copy of the special, but you can get one through Amazon Instant Video.

Throughout the show various guests talk about their area of expertise, including A. Roger Ekirch, who was featured rather prominently and whose book, At Day’s Close, formed a substantial part of the show. Intrigued I purchased a copy of the book on the Kindle. I’ve included a copy of my review.

At Days Close
Thoroughly enjoyed this meticulously researched book, which delves into the way people lived through the night in pre-industrial times (the book’s main focus is early modern into colonial times with some references to earlier time periods). Ekirch’s writing is well-informed and entertaining. Using literature, news from the day, diaries, and journals, he traces the habits of people as they prepared for the onslaught of night, as well as the development and beginnings of our modern day night time world. While we learn much about the “darker” side of night activities (crime, lack of conveniences we take for granted, bug infestations), so there’s no looking back through rose-colored glasses, Ekirch makes is clear that modern people have lost something in our quest for a 24-hour lifestyle. It’s definitely something to ponder. My only complaint about the book is that it wasn’t longer…I wanted more!

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