At Hay Festival: Greg Jenner – The History of our Morning Activities

Greg Jenner, a historical consultant for the Horrible Histories, gave an entertaining presentation ‘A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life’, charting the history of our everyday morning routine. From the question of how to dispose of the elimination of our body waste to the development of the toothbrush Greg delivered a précis of what the reader can expect to find in his new book. Photos of the ancient beds and pillows made me thankful for the million or so springs in my mattress and the desire of our Victorian ancestors for privacy means that I do not have to share my morning ablutions with the entire community. At one time, a shower or bath could prove fatal as the heater blew the poor unsuspecting victim into pieces. Arsenic seems to have fallen in and out of favour over the years and I am certain that the unhappy wife could have used this to her advantage whilst seeming to care for her husband’s skin, teeth, etc.

Greg’s book charts the history relating to a day’s activities of the human being, including timekeeping, personal care, sourcing food, etc. Our sophisticated modern society has not necessarily progressed beyond that of the ancient civilizations. I wish that Greg had been around in my days of learning history when dates mattered more than understanding the sociology of the period.

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