As we move into Week 6 of Jewish Nightlife, it’s time to take a look at how cultural historians understand the “rise” of nightlife in the Modern Era.
Here’s a link to an article in the BBC News Magazine:
Check out this reference:
In his new book, Evening’s Empire, historian Craig Koslofsky puts forward an account of how this happened.
“Associations with night before the 17th Century were not good,” he says. The night was a place populated by people of disrepute – criminals, prostitutes and drunks.
“Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige or social value associated with staying up all night.”
That changed in the wake of the Reformation and the counter-Reformation. Protestants and Catholics became accustomed to holding secret services at night, during periods of persecution. If earlier the night had belonged to reprobates, now respectable people became accustomed to exploiting the hours of darkness.
This trend migrated to the social sphere too, but only for those who could afford to live by candlelight. With the advent of street lighting, however, socialising at night began to filter down through the classes.
In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed.
As we had discussed previously, and continue to explore during the coming weeks, the history of “Jewish nightlife” begins in the 16th century. It’s associations are with the prohibited, the mysterious, and especially the mystical. Through the influence of Jewish mysticism (often referred to as “Kabbalah”), new rituals were created, and existing night-time rituals acquired new meaning and significance.
It goes without saying that you can take a look at Evening’s Empire in our University Library.