Before skyscrapers and streetlights glowed at all hours, American cities fell into inky blackness with each setting of the sun. But over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, new technologies began to light up streets, sidewalks, buildings, and public spaces. Peter C. Baldwin’s evocative book depicts the changing experience of the urban night over this period, visiting a host of actors—scavengers, newsboys, and mashers alike—in the nocturnal city.
Baldwin examines work, crime, transportation, and leisure as he moves through the gaslight era, exploring the spread of modern police forces and the emergence of late-night entertainment, to the era of electricity, when social campaigns sought to remove women and children from public areas at night. While many people celebrated the transition from darkness to light as the arrival of twenty-four hours of daytime, Baldwin shows that certain social patterns remained, including the danger of street crime and the skewed gender profile of night work. Sweeping us from concert halls and brothels to streetcars and industrial forges, In the Watches of the Night is an illuminating study of a vital era in American urban history.
David Grazian’s riveting tour of downtown Philadelphia and its newly bustling nightlife scene reveals the city as an urban playground where everyone dabbles in games of chance and perpetrates elaborate cons. Entertainment in the city has evolved into a professional industry replete with set designers, stage directors, and method actors whose dazzling illusions tempt even the shrewdest of customers. As entertaining and illuminating as the confessional stories it recounts, On the Make is a fascinating exposé of the smoke and mirrors employed in the city at night.
The pulsing beat of its nightlife has long drawn travelers to the streets of Shanghai, where the night scene is a crucial component of the city’s image as a global metropolis. In Shanghai Nightscapes, sociologist James Farrer and historian Andrew David Field examine the cosmopolitan nightlife culture that first arose in Shanghai in the 1920s and that has been experiencing a revival since the 1980s. Drawing on over twenty years of fieldwork and hundreds of interviews, the authors spotlight a largely hidden world of nighttime pleasures—the dancing, drinking, and socializing going on in dance clubs and bars that have flourished in Shanghai over the last century.
The book begins by examining the history of the jazz-age dance scenes that arose in the ballrooms and nightclubs of Shanghai’s foreign settlements. During its heyday in the 1930s, Shanghai was known worldwide for its jazz cabarets that fused Chinese and Western cultures. The 1990s have seen the proliferation of a drinking, music, and sexual culture collectively constructed to create new contact zones between the local and tourist populations. Today’s Shanghai night scenes are simultaneously spaces of inequality and friction, where men and women from many different walks of life compete for status and attention, and spaces of sociability, in which intercultural communities are formed. Shanghai Nightscapes highlights the continuities in the city’s nightlife across a turbulent century, as well as the importance of the multicultural agents of nightlife in shaping cosmopolitan urban culture in China’s greatest global city.
To listen to an audio diary of a night out in Shanghai with Farrer and Field, click here: http://n.pr/1VsIKAw.