Monday, September 5, 2016

Sleep in Early Modern England

From Stuarts Online:
Researching Sleep in Early Modern England has certainly been a challenge, and my attempts to reconstruct how people thought about sleep, how and where they practiced it, and what motivations shaped their rituals and habits has led me to many and varied sources ranging from household inventories, diaries and letters, medical treatises, recipe books, sermons, to surviving linen bed-sheets and wooden bedsteads.

I have become convinced that the early modern period witnessed some major transformations in sleep’s understanding and practice – many of them connected to changing ideas about how, and to what extent, natural and supernatural forces were believed to shape sleep’s quality and duration. The book also includes lots of vignettes that contrast with how we sleep today – the widespread practice of ‘segmented sleep’ – sleep that was divided into two separate phases during the night, which people termed their ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleeps, is one very important difference. The degree of personal and emotional attachment that people had to their bedsteads and bedding textiles is another; and the way that Christian beliefs informed people’s expectations of sleep, and the ways that they managed it, is another. (Read more.)

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