Thursday, April 28, 2016

If Walls Could Talk : an intimate history of the home

by Lucy Worsley

Another book in the category Curious Histories of Mostly–White People Things. Of course, if you live in North America or Europe or an urbanized area just about anywhere in the world, no matter your color or culture, these Things are yours now too: bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, housing and households of a certain size, expectations of privacy are all being globalized, for better or worse.

Anyway, this book is an interesting and nicely written exploration of the historical, and changing, cultural significance of the objects and activities which make up that thing we call a home. It covers a broad range of topics, so my recollections are of random tidbits of information:
  • spits for roasting meats were turned by a type of dog specially bred to be a size and shape that would fit inside a hamster wheel–like contraption attached to the spit
  • people in olden times went to sleep early (when it got dark) but often got up for a few hours to do stuff in the middle of the night before going back to sleep for a few more hours
  • royals wiped their butts with cloth napkins
  • we all should be more grateful for modern toilets and sewers
History is more than great people and geopolitics. The details of everyday life in the past are fascinating. I recommend this book for readers who like to think about historical settings and "period details" more than supposedly significant events. Also good for trivia buffs and amateur sociologists.

No comments: