Ekirch, A. Roger 1950-

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EKIRCH, A. Roger 1950-

(Arthur Roger Ekirch)

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced Ee-kirch; born February 6, 1950, in Washington, DC; son of Arthur A., Jr. and Dorothy (Gustafson) Ekirch. Education: Dartmouth College, A.B., 1972; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1974, Ph.D., 1978. Religion: Lutheran.

ADDRESSES: Home—1901 Pelham Dr., Roanoke, VA 24018. Office—Department of History, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, instructor, 1977–78, assistant professor, 1978–82, associate professor, 1982–88, professor of history, 1988–. Mellon research fellow at Cambridge University and fellow commoner of Peterhouse, 1981–82; visiting editor of publications, Institute of Early American History and Culture.

MEMBER: American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society for Legal History, Associates of the Institute of Early American History and Culture.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowship from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1982–83, 1986, 1992; Virginia Center for the Humanities Fellowships, 1987, 1990; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1998; James L. Clifford Prize, American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2002; Percy G. Adams Prize, Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2002.



"Poor Carolina": Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina, 1729–1776, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1981.

Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718–1775, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to history journals.

SIDELIGHTS: A professor of history, A. Roger Ekirch has penned books on the politics of North Carolina as well as on the British practice of transporting criminals not only to Australia, but also to its American colonies. However, with his third book, the 2005 At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, Ekirch struck on a topic and presentation that garnered critical attention and a readership outside of academic circles. Ekirch put in twenty years of research and writing to this effort with "impressive results," according to Jonathan Yardley in a Washington Post review. Yardley found the research for the book both "broad and deep." There are over one thousand references for this book, including diaries, newspapers, poems, public documents, court records, folktales, songs, sermons, and literature. Ekirch looks at pre-industrial Europe in the age before gas lighting and then electric lighting eradicated the reign of the night as a truly separate time of day.

Ekirch covers topics from the development of artificial lighting to the dangers of night to sleep patterns in an age where darkness constituted half of human life. Nighttime was a dangerous time before artificial lighting. Not only was navigation in the dark difficult, but also gangs of rowdies that presage gang warfare of the modern day often controlled the streets. Some worked at night, in forges and spinning bees; others huddled behind locked shutters, fearful of the spirits of night. For Philip Hoare, writing in the Telegraph Online, "The strangest revelation in Ekirch's book" is the notion of segmented sleep. With such long periods of darkness, Ekirch contends that people used to sleep in two segments, interrupting their slumbers at midnight to rise and converse or perhaps even work for a couple of hours before returning to their primitive and flea-ridden pallets for a second round of sleep. With the inception of artificial light, which allowed people to remain up later, such sleep patterns were changed, with, according to Ekirch, drastic results for humans. Hoare went on to note that Ekirch's "profound understanding of the period provides such enlightening details" in this "engrossing book."

Other reviewers had similar praise for At Day's Close. Yardley found it an "interesting, original book," and also noted that Ekirch "writes exceptionally well." John Carey, noting the breadth of research in Ekirch's book, wrote in the London Times Online that "his book reads like a huge card-index of nocturnal thoughts and incidents." Carey added that the book "can seem overlong," but "it is redeemed by intriguing details." Similarly, a critic writing in Kirkus Reviews called it "A fascinating tale but, unfortunately, often in need of more graceful telling." Other reviewers had less qualified praise. Ian Pindar, writing in Guardian Online, noted "Ekirch's command of his material is impressive." Pindar concluded, "What began as a history of nighttime becomes by the end a lament for a night we have lost." Fritz Lanham, writing in the Houston Chronicle Online, felt Ekirch's book was "the best sort of bottom-up history," further observing, "anyone curious about ordinary life in the distant past will find this book mostly irresistible." A contributor for Publishers Weekly likewise called the book "a rich weave of citation and archival evidence" that was both "engrossing" and "leisurely paced." And John Leonard, writing in Harper's Magazine, found the same work "an enthralling anthropology of the shadow realms of Western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution."



Harper's Magazine, June, 2005, John Leonard, review of At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of At Day's Close, p. 330.

Publishers Weekly, April 4, 2005, review of At Day's Close, p. 52.


Decatur Daily Online, http:decaturdaily.com/ (June 19, 2005), Janet Davis, "Night Fears: How Did They Begin?," review of At Day's Close.

Guardian Online, http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (July 30, 2005), Ian Pindar, "Because the Night," review of At Day's Close.

History Department, Virginia Tech University Web site, http://www.history.vt.edu/Ekirch/ (August 21, 2005), "A. Roger Ekirch."

Houston Chronicle Online, http://www.chron.com/ (June 25, 2005), Fritz Lanham, "Nighttime as Fright Time," review of At Day's Close.

Telegraph Online, http://www.arts.telegraph.co.uk/ (June 22, 2005), Philip Hoare, "Things That Went Bump," review of At Day's Close.

Time Online, http://.www.timesonline.co.uk/ (June 27, 2005), John Carey, review of At Day's Close.

Washington Post Online, http://www.washintonpost.com/ (June 19, 2005), Jonathan Yardley, review of At Day's Close.