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


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Part of New Studies in European History

  • Date Published: June 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521721066

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • This fascinating study reveals the importance of the night to key themes in early modern cultural and political history, such as witchcraft, piety, gender, the public sphere, colonisation, race and the Enlightenment
    • Explores how early modern people expanded their daily lives into the night to create the modern order of daily time
    • With a comparative focus on northern Europe, the author offers a new and consistent view of the emerging modern night across the region
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    • Winner of the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2011 Award

    Reviews & endorsements

    '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 (

    '… 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

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521721066
    • length: 448 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.7kg
    • contains: 36 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • 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.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • European Civilization 1500-1899
    • Introduction to Cultural History: The History of the Night
  • Author

    Craig Koslofsky, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    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).


    • Winner of the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2011 Award

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