The Secret History of Night

Download Audio
photo"Let the night teach us what we are and the day what we should be," the writer Thomas Tryon said in 1691.

Before modern 24-7 life and constant streetlight, humanity was terrified and transfixed by the mystery of the pure, dark, night. The time after sunset was given over to criminals and demons, night terrors and moonstruck lunatics — the night was a menacing world beyond anyone's control.

In a new book on the history of night, author Roger Ekirch claims that before modernity, humanity was humbled by the night but also liberated by it. In the dark, men and women cut free of tightly-corseted social convention acted on impulse and desire. Now, Ekirch argues, nighttime has since become the forgotten half of human experience.

Hear a conversation with author Roger Ekirch about the true human nature as revealed by the secret history of the night.


A. Roger Ekirch, professor of early American history at Virginia Tech, author of the new book "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past."

This program aired on June 10, 2005.


More from On Point

Listen Live