At Home: An Informal History of Private Life
Hay Festival 2010, Saturday 29 May 2010, 10am
It struck Bill Bryson one day that we devote a lot more time to the Wars of the Roses or the Normandy Landings than considering what most of history really consists of: centuries upon centuries of people quietly going about their daily business – eating, sleeping, having sex, endeavouring to be amused. So he started a journey around his house, an old rectory in Norfolk, wandering from room to room considering how the ordinary things in life came to be. Along the way he allowed himself delightful digressions on the history of everything from architecture to epidemics, from food preservation to the discovery of electricity, and from crinolines to toilets. And to his dismay, he also encountered a terrifying variety of dangers to our health and happiness. Where the prizewinning A Short History of Nearly Everything was a sweeping survey of Earth, the universe and everything, At Home is an inwards look at all human life through a domestic telescope. Because, as Bryson says, our homes aren't refuges from history. They are where history begins and ends.
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