The average person spends about a third of his life in bed. It is easy to imagine that the experience is universal because our species could not continue without the two most obvious bed-related activities: sleep and sex. However, Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani show that the basic principles remain almost unchanged in terms of time and geography. However, the physical composition of the bed, the attitudes to the beds and their possible uses vary considerably. What we did in bed: a horizontal story is an ambitious book that speaks to comrades from a variety of cultures and eras, from the earliest people who "probably slept high above the ground" to those who "occupy the bed of the future" readers, virtual reality Technology and levitation improvements.
Years ago, when I was doing my own research on medieval beds, I lay awake at night wondering what "bed" really meant and whether the piece of furniture I was lying on was, by definition, a bed. Fagan and Durrani may have had similar concerns early in the morning. "How can we be sure we're going to look at beds at all?" They wonder. Your audience could ask the same question. Why, for example, do the mats woven by the Sibudu people and "far more than sleeping places" have a higher claim to be a bed than a carpet? Which place has a middle ages Lit de parade or an army sleeping bag titled in a book What we did in bed?
As it turns out, they have every right to be involved. The authors convincingly argue that a bed is wherever people could sleep, either every night or usually under certain circumstances, but also that a bed is much more than its intended function. Churchill ruled Britain from his bed. Dying monarchs of many cultures were dragged from their roll-out beds or battlefields into their state beds so that they could be seen to die in their splendor. The old Etruscans lay down to eat and were buried in coffins that mimic the dining room scenes. A bed is therefore not just a place to sleep or have sex, but at the very center of how people everywhere have lived and continue to live.
This book is a fascinating read. It is full of anecdotes that are set in and around the bed, using primary sources wherever possible, and the authors seem to be persuaded not to relate interesting facts tangentially to the subject. As such, the reader gets a wealth of knowledge from the rate of sperm emissions in a "well-built seventy year old" (once a month) compared to a "well built fifteen year old" (twice a year) to 930 calories a day Day that the 5th century ascetic John Cassian consumes.
As the authors make clear, this book was written by archaeologists, and science is strongest when it comes to archaeological evidence. In particular, the stone houses in Skara Brae are examined in detail, whereby the archaeological evidence is carefully separated from the speculations. Similar attention to detail applies to items such as Tutankhamun's triple-fold travel cot and the items found in Kha's tomb and in the treatment of ancient Greek klinaiDining table sofas with wooden frames, which are also used for bed rest after childbirth or occasionally as deathbeds.
One of the few activities that are not discussed is reading in bed. But maybe we should do our own empirical research: the book is perfect for bedtime reading for anyone interested in historical and contemporary everyday life.
What we did in bed: a horizontal story
Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani
Yale 232pp £ 20
Hollie L.S. Morgan is the author of Beds and chambers in late medieval England: readings, representations and realities (York Medieval Press, 2017).