At Home Summary By Bill Bryson

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At Home (2010) is a fascinating and informative book, offering readers an insightful history of the home.

It takes you on a journey to explore how each room evolved into what it is today.

From the bathroom to the kitchen, this book dives deep into how these rooms have changed over time, providing interesting facts as well as anecdotal stories about these spaces that make for a great read.

Along with this background knowledge of the home, At Home also provides an in-depth analysis of how homes reflect our current culture and societal factors, making for an enjoyable yet educational read.

At Home

Book Name: At Home (A Short History of Private Life)

Author(s): Bill Bryson

Rating: 3.9/5

Reading Time: 14 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Bill Bryson is an accomplished author renowned for his works in a wide range of topics; from science to travel, language and beyond.

He has previously worked as a journalist and chief copy editor at British newspapers such as The Times and The Independent.

His notable accomplishments include titles like Notes from a Small Island (1995) and A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003).

All in all, Bill Bryson is one authortwhose range and breadth captures the imagination of readers from all walks of life.

Uncover the Curious History Behind Your Home and Everyday Objects

Everyday Objects

Have you ever stopped to wonder why your home is made of wood and brick? What’s the purpose of adding salt and pepper to everything you eat? How did that canned green beans in the pantry get there?

If these questions pique your interest, then you should check out At Home Book Summary.

In this book, you’ll learn all about how our homes have developed throughout history – including why French soldiers had to shoot their way into canned food, why ladies avoided board games for their “sexually stimulating” effects, and why medieval monks had a particular funk about them!

Break down the walls of history and learn interesting facts about our homes by reading At Home Book Summary.

You’ll be glad that you did!

From Wrought Iron Cans to Easy Openers: A History of Keeping Food Non-Perishable Through Innovative Packaging Solutions

Back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it wasn’t always easy to access healthy, non-perishable foods.

One man named Francois Appert proposed storing food in glass jars; however, these weren’t very efficient since air and bacteria could get inside.

Another man named Bryan Donkin developed an innovation with sealed metal cans.

Unfortunately, though, these cans were made from incredibly heavy wrought iron — so heavy in fact that there were even instructions on how to open them using a hammer and chisel!

The canned food soldiers had to use as rations was especially hard to open, as they had to use dangerous tools like a bayonet or actually shoot the can before they could consume the food inside.

The Need for Affordable, Durable Building Materials Leads to the Rise of Brick

The lack of limestone and timber in colonial North America presented a major issue for British settlers.

During this era, mud-and-sticks houses were held together with lime, yet lime was unavailable in the American colonies.

As a result, these structures were often weak and poor in quality, and rarely stood for more than ten years.

In order to construct sturdier homesteads, colonists used wood as a building material instead; however, the dwindling number of trees due to Native Americans clearing forests for hunting limited timber supplies.

Due to these materials being inadequate resources for construction purposes, British colonists started turning to stone as an alternative.

Stone had been plentiful in Britain at the time, yet it was rarely utilized due to it being heavy and expensive to transport – only grand projects such as churches and castles were built from it.

To build a monastery, 40,000 cartloads of stone would be required!

For families who didn’t have access to wood or could not afford limestone bricks or stones became their go-to solution when constructing homes.

Thus the lack of limestone and timber in America ultimately led British colonists to use stone as a building material instead.

The History of the Bedroom: How Building Materials, Fashion, and War Have Influenced Interior Design

Interior Design

Fashion isn’t just about the clothes you wear, it can also affect building materials.

This is particularly true for London’s bricks.

For much of the Georgian era from 1714-1830, anyone who could afford it chose stone over brick to construct their homes – but this changed as a direct result of economics.

When Britain implemented a brick tax in 1784 due to experiencing financial troubles after the American Revolutionary War, many English families no longer wanted to use brick despite there being plenty of iron-rich clay available to make them locally.

Consequently, they turned to other materials such as stucco and stone.

Properties that had originally been built with red bricks were often given a cosmetic fix by covering it with a layer of solid stone or having it glazed with stucco which made the house look like one made out of stone instead.

The Apsley House in London’s Hyde Park was made this way, making people believe its exterior was constructed entirely out of stone when in fact it actually was mainly composed of bricks underneath.

It just goes to show how significantly fashion has always played a part in deciding what building materials are used, even since centuries ago – not just for clothes, but also for structures too!

19th-Century Mattresses Were Filled with Pests, Sexual Anxieties and Painful Pricking Rings

A nineteenth-century bed certainly wasn’t as comfortable as the one we have today.

Instead of a mattress, often there would be straw stuffed into it, not to mention any number of rodents and bugs that were trying to make a home in between the straws.

As you can imagine, the combination of straw and pests made sleeping in such beds a rather unpleasant experience.

Commonly used filling materials included feathers, hair, sea moss and sawdust along with straw, all of which provided plenty of food and shelter for bed bugs, moths, mice and rats.

In 1897 a girl named Eliza Ann Summers had to take her shoes to bed as she was hoping they’d protect her from the rattling rats!

What’s worse is that people believed that sexual activities or self-pollution (masturbation) before or during pregnancy could cause irreparable damage to fetuses.

Men were told that any release of seminal fluid other than within his wife’s body during intercourse was detrimental to their health.

The invention of Penile Pricking Rings in 1850s served as a warning for men against such “accidents”.

How Twisted Social Beliefs Kept People From Bathing for Centuries


Ancient Romans were known for taking a lot of baths and seeing it as part of their lifestyle.

They frequented grand bathing halls, as if it was one more social activity.

In fact, some Roman bath houses had libraries, barbers, tennis courts, and even brothels!

It was accessible to people of all classes and not just the rich or famous.

However, early Christians thought the opposite of Romans: an unwashed man was seen as a holy man!

This idea persisted when in 1170 the undergarments of Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury) were found full of lice on his death bed.

Another example is Saint Godric who made a pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem without taking a single bath.

As the plague started around 1350, people eventually became aware that good hygiene brings health benefits; but at that time they weren’t connecting hygiene to illness yet.

It took men with knowledge to ponder over this plague in order to stop it from spreading further – though sadly enough their solution was for people to not take baths since heat opens up pores which supposedly make you more susceptible to infection.

The Salt and Pepper Story: How a Necessity Turned into a Luxury

Humans have been eating salt for millennia, not just because it is essential for human biology, but even more so because of the lengths we have gone to secure it.

It has even been a demand for wars and a status symbol in some societies.

On the flip side, pepper is not essential for survival, but its popularity among the ancient Romans meant that it became something worth fighting over and showing off one’s wealth with.

The Roman love of pepper drove up its price and made it highly coveted – so much so that when Goth nationalities threatened the Roman Empire in 408 CE, 3,000 pounds of salt was offered in exchange for their safe departure!

Duke Karl of Bourgogne also ordered 380 pounds of pepper as decoration for his wedding in 1468.

We eat salt to survive; we consume pepper because it’s popular, or so said the ancient Romans.

This journey through history goes to show that our homes hold many stories waiting to be heard.

Wrap Up

In At Home, author Bill Bryson dives into a deep exploration of the very spaces we call home.

He looks at homes throughout history, from cave dwellings all the way to modern-day real estate.

His main point is that what we consider to be home has changed dramatically over the years.

Not only have domestic spaces evolved, but so have our habits when it comes to living and inhabiting them.

At Home ultimately shows us that our living spaces are in a constant state of adaptation and adaptation which meets the human needs and wants of our ever-changing world.

Whether it be intentional or accidental changes, this book highlights how they can impact how people live in their homes.

By understanding these changes, readers can get an even better grasp on the importance of making their homes into welcoming environments for both themselves and for other people.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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