If Walls Could Talk

Lucy Worsley, author of If Walls Could Talk

I am a social history enthusiast.  I have always enjoyed learning about societal customs; why things were done the way they were, and how they reflected what was happening in the world at that time.  So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by British historian Lucy Worsley.  Worsley’s book and accompanying BBC documentary on the subject is a fascinating look at how four rooms of the house (the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room) changed over time, both in form and function.  Beginning with the medieval period and moving forward to the 20th century, Worsley charts how advances in material goods for the home transformed these rooms into what we know today.  And she does it in an extremely entertaining way.  Worsley tests out things like Tudor-era toothpaste, baking hedgehog in a medieval kitchen (which consisted of a fire built in the middle of the room), and demonstrating how a woman in a Georgian era gown would have, um,  taken care of business.

No easy task, given the amount of fabric with which to wrestle.

So far I’ve only seen the documentary, which Edwardian Promenade was kind enough to put up on their YouTube site.  You can view it here.  It’s tempted me to purchase Worsley’s book as well.

Lighting a gas lamp in a Victorian living room.  Gas lighting was called “illuminated air” when it first became available.

You can get a taste of what Lucy Worsley learns in each room by reading the BBC article about the show.  And if you want even more information, Worsley has a blog in which she goes into further detail about her experiences.



Filed under General history

2 responses to “If Walls Could Talk

  1. Frank Bahnson

    interesting post Diana….

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