Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 July 2021
Darkness offered economically underprivileged and socially marginal groups livelihood and leisure opportunities that were hardly available during the day. These populations therefore figured prominently in the city’s nocturnal life. But the night offered cover also to the “respectable” residents of the city, and to its rulers. Darkness indeed had a blinding effect, but it also made it easier to turn a blind eye. Whereas infringements in broad daylight were a direct challenge to established order, it was often comfortable for all parties to pretend nighttime violations never happened. Both order and its alleged enemies, could more easily transgress their bounds at night, assuming that what happened in the dark remained in the dark. Throughout most of the eighteenth century, a huge nightlife scene was allowed to exist, as long as it remained out of sight and did not openly undermine diurnal order.