Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spinning Bees

TLS September 23 2011

from Tim Blanning's review of Craig Koslofsky's Evening's Empire: A history of the night in early modern Europe:

No longer a time reserved for sleep, the night time was now the right time for all manner of recreational and representational purposes. This is what Craig Koslofsky called "nocturnalisation", defined as "the ongoing expansion of the legitimate social and symbolic uses of the night", a development to which he awards the status of "a revolution in early modern Europe."

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The most effective instrument was street-lighting, introduced to Paris in 1667, Lille also in 1667, Amsterdam in 1669, Hamburg in 1673, Turin in 1675, Berlin in 1682, Copenhagen in 1683, and London, where private companies were contracted to provide the service, between 1684 and 1694.

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It has always been the educated who had demonized folk beliefs, while the common people had made no automatic association between the night and evil or temptation. Particularly resistant, for example, in many parts of northern Europe was the "spinning bee", a nocturnal gathering of women to exchange gossip, stories, refreshment and--crucially--light and heat, as they spun wool or flax. It could also be the site of courtship, as young men could be admitted to add spice to these gatherings. Indeed, an illustration from Nuremberg depicts a regular orgy under way, including a priest "taking care of the cook".

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