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‘Sleep in Early Modern England’

Sasha Handley

Yale University Press

Drawing on diverse archival sources and material artifacts, Handley reveals that the way we sleep is as dependent on culture as it is on biological and environmental factors. After 1660 the accepted notion that sleepers lay at the mercy of natural forces and supernatural agents was challenged by new medical thinking about sleep’s relationship to the nervous system. This breakthrough coincided with radical changes shaping everything from sleeping hours to bedchambers. Handley’s illuminating work documents a major evolution in our conscious understanding of the unconscious.


  • A book of sheer originality and novelty… Handley tackles an almost completely neglected subject with disarming modesty.

Wolfson History Prize judges