Représentations et pratiques nocturnes dans la société roumaine (XVIIIe – XXe siècles)

Nocturnal representations and practices in Romanian society (18th – 20th centuries)


  • Alexandru Ofrim University of Bucharest



Night Studies, night-time activities , sleep habits, segmented sleep , monophasic sleep


Folklorists, ethnographers and anthropologists have dedicated few studies to the night, and they especially emphasized its negative representations: an interval of darkness, of anxiety and fear, a time of intensified activities of evil supernatural forces. By favoring imaginary and mythical components, night was taken into consideration as an exceptional and extraordinary time, as a negative counterpart to the day, and not as a natural reverse of it. For a long time, the night did not draw the attention of historians, being perceived as a time when nothing happens, a time for rest and sleep. Starting with Jean Verdon’s pioneering book (“La Nuit au Moyen Âge”, 1994), historians have become increasingly interested in night habits, and explored the nightlife of people in ancient societies, bedtimes and waking times, sleep duration. The history of sleep has become a new field of research, opened by the American historian Roger Ekirch (2001, 2005), who advanced the theory that people in pre-industrial societies used to sleep differently. During the night, the sleep was biphasic (or segmented), divided into two moments and separated by a period of wakefulness (watch) at around midnight (between the first sleep and the second one). In our study we intend to verify if the results of Ekirch’s research are also applicable to the realities of the Romanian society in the 18th-20th centuries. We must recognize the difficulties of a history of nocturnal time, the fragmentary nature of the sources, the lack of direct and explicit testimonies (few people have been able to subjectivize their experience of sleep and transmit written testimonies). Therefore, we investigated sources such as chronicles, judiciary documents and literary texts, in search of the segmented sleep pattern. We have identified direct or indirect references to the two periods of sleep, and the intervening period of wakefulness. These references allow us to cautiously advance the hypothesis that this sleep pattern also existed in pre-modern Romanian society, in rural and urban environments. The future researches, based on teamwork, will  more accurately determine the validity of this hypothesis.


Author Biography

Alexandru Ofrim, University of Bucharest

Alexandru Ofrim is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest.  He  obtained  his  PhD  in  the  History  of Mentalities  at  the  Institute  for South-East European Studies of the Romanian Academy in 1998. He owns a BA degree in History and Philosophy, Faculty of History and Philosophy, University of Bucharest. His research interests are Cultural History, the Cultural History of the Book and  Reading  Practices,  the  Cultural  History  of  the  Cities,  and  the  Anthropology  of Writing. His recently published books are the following: How the Old Streets Got Their Names: A Cultural History of Bucharest, Éditions L’Harmattan – EME, Paris – Louvain - la Neuve, (2022); Farmecul Discret al Patinei și Alte Mici Istorii Culturale [The discreet charm of the patina and other short cultural histories], Bucharest, Humanitas, Cultural Studies Collection, (2019); Străzi Vechi din Bucureștiul de Azi [Old streets from nowadays Bucharest], Bucharest, Humanitas, (2006), (2007), (2008), (2009), (2011); Cheia şi Psaltirea: Imaginarul Cărţii în Cultura Tradiţională Românească [The  key  and  the  Psalter:  The  imagery  of  the  book  in  traditional  Romanian culture], Piteşti, Paralela 45, (2001).


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How to Cite

Ofrim, A. (2024). Représentations et pratiques nocturnes dans la société roumaine (XVIIIe – XXe siècles): Nocturnal representations and practices in Romanian society (18th – 20th centuries). Swedish Journal of Romanian Studies, 7(2), 112–123.