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The Making of Home

Judith Flanders

Netherlands always shortage arable land and so a weak aristocracy. So little resistance to the growing power of merchant class that culminated in the Dutch East India Co

Calvinism, as practiced in Netherlands, was religion of everyday life. Showed piety by being sober and industrious, not by fasting or sacrificing. And from that it was a short step to seeing the rewards of a sober and industrious life - prosperity - were a sign of God's blessings.

Medieval houses, particularly the big ones, used staircases to delineate - servants used the back stairs; family the main ones. But the big invention was the corridor, which grew out of the monasteries cloisters. The first one built in a 1597 house, and was so new, had no word for it: it was "a long entrance running through the entire house." (English first experimented with the less precise word 'passage', before settling on the Italian-derived 'corridor' in early C19).

Change brought about by car, especially in America, where they noticed the decline of front porches and casual visits from neighbours. Now people went out for a drive, whizzing past the front porches without stopping top chat.

First reference to glazing in England dates to 675, when French glass, and French glaziers, were imported to install windows in the monastery at Jarrow (which was also the first stone ecclesiastical building in Britain.) But it was not until C13 that secular buildings began to use glass, and then only those of the very wealthy. The poor used shutters or oiled paper for light.

For a long time cooking was done over an open fire in the center of the main room. A chain suspended a cooking pot over the fire. When chimneys were invented, and fireplaces moved to side wall, little changed - food was boiled or stewed in a cauldron of liquid. No way to bake in an oven at home; you relied on commercial bakeries, or, if too far from them, baked on a breadstone in the hot ashes.

Real change only with the Ind Revn and coal-fired iron stoves, making it possible to cook with several pots on top, and to roast meats inside.

What we today would consider essential was not necessarily a priority for others - in one American town surveyed in 1920, 21 of the 26 homes which had a car, had no bathroom.

Piped water made biggest change to houses. For first time bathing became private instead of public.

Myth of the frontier-type housewife bottling or preserving fruits and veges. Cost and availability of sugar and jars, as well as cost of fuel, and the time required. Veges and fruit were either just dried, or stored in a cool root cellar.

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