What We Did in Bed A Horizontal History Brian Fagan, Nadia Durrani

Publication date:
12 Nov 2019
Yale University Press
232 pages: 210 x 140 x 22mm
16 b-w illus.
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Pulling back the covers on the fascinating, yet often forgotten, history of the bed
Louis XIV ruled France from his bedchamber. Winston Churchill governed Britain from his during World War II. Travelers routinely used to bed down with complete strangers, and whole families shared beds in many preindustrial households. Beds were expensive items—and often for show. Tutankhamun was buried on a golden bed, wealthy Greeks were sent to the afterlife on dining beds, and deceased middle-class Victorians were propped up on a bed in the parlor.
In this sweeping social history that covers the past seventy thousand years, Brian Fagan and Nadia Durrani look at the endlessly varied role of the bed through time. This was a place for sex, death, childbirth, storytelling, and sociability as well as sleeping. But who did what with whom, why, and how could vary incredibly depending on the time and place. It is only in the modern era that the bed has transformed into a private, hidden zone, and its rich social history has largely been forgotten.

Brian Fagan is one of the world’s leading archaeological writers and an internationally recognized authority on world prehistory. He is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His other books include Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization and A Little History of Archaeology.
Nadia Durrani has spent the past two decades writing about world archaeology. She is the co-author of several of Brian Fagan’s market-leading textbooks and the former editor of Current World Archaeology magazine.

“[An] entertaining new study”—Helen Davies, The Sunday Times

“This book is a fascinating read. It is full of anecdotes set in and around the bed, making use of primary sources where possible, and the authors can't seem to stop themselves from relating interesting facts only tangentially linked to the topic in hand”Hollie L.S. Morgan, History Today

“Anyone wishing to appreciate the pedigree of this unjustly overlooked item of furniture should dive between the covers of this volume to experience the ultimate bedtime story.”—Current World Archaeology

“If you thought that your bed was only good for sleeping in, having sex in, or dying in, then this book will disabuse you—in fact, it’s so entertaining, it will keep you awake long into the night.”—Paul Chrystal, author of In Bed with the Ancient Greeks and In Bed with the Romans

“This is a fascinating account of an important object that has not previously received the attention it deserves.”—Chris Scarre, Durham University

"This delightful expose of one of humanity’s most beloved furnishings is the ultimate bedtime story. Discovering the tales that beds could tell brings a new meaning to pillow talk."—Matthew Symonds, editor, Current World Archaeology