To watch TV I need electricity, to cook an egg on an induction hob I need electricity, to make tea with water heated precisely at 90° I need electricity, to share my morning routine in story I need electricity, to write this top I need electricity. Frankly, I think that if I am asked to choose between electricity and my mother, I choose preum’s. This is why and how our life has changed a little bit since the invention of the light bulb and the invasion of light in our homes. But let’s see concretely what this revolution has changed in our habits and customs.
1. You could see the Milky Way
Table of Contents
OK it’s still technically possible today but much more difficult because of the light pollution. It’s con, it looks nice the Milky Way. Nicer than the diffused light of street lamps.
2. Unless you were very rich, the candles stank badly.
If we are now used to lavender scented candles (or schneck scent for followers of Gwyneth Paltrow), we must not forget that the candles before did not give off such a pleasant aroma. Invented 3 millennia before the birth of little Jesus, the candle was mainly made of fat (tallow). So not great because not only did we give a damn about it all over our fingers and in addition it whipped the chicken shit (no writing specifically reports the expression “chicken shit” in the description of this smell but if I were a candle made from pork fat, that’s what I would like to smell).
It will be necessary to wait until the 19th century to see the birth of the candle, made from beeswax. Problem: this ingenious process was very expensive and therefore not accessible to the entire population. Despite the existence of the candle-that-smells-good, things continued to whip in the cottages.
3. Without public lighting, the streets were very dangerous at night
It’s hard to imagine what a city like Paris would look like without any light at night. And for good reason, if public lighting has become a necessity, it is for security reasons. It was at nightfall that thieves and other brigands came out of hiding to seize the slightest theft. Suffice to say that we didn’t come home from a torched evening at midnight.
Since the Middle Ages, many attempts at public lighting have failed, starting with the decision of King Saint-Louis in the 13th century to require everyone to light the street from their window so that we do not find ourselves not in complete darkness (a nice idea but which didn’t take because it’s expensive, the brothel, if you want that, let go of the tunasses loulou). Henri II will also try to impose beacons, a sort of lamppost in the form of a giant torch effective for light but which has the bad taste to produce a lot of smoke, the proposal will not last long. In short, without electricity we had it in the baba (this is exactly what they must have said to each other at the time).
If you want to know more about the history of public lighting, I refer you to this fascinating article.
4. Most animal species were doing better
Ah bah yes electricity is not all good as shown by the figures on light pollution. First, it endangers nocturnal species, but it also disorients other species, scaring away their prey or disrupting their reproductive system. In short, the animals were much happier with the limelight off.
5. We slept better
It’s not so much the fault of the poor bulb who is asked nothing more than to do his job as a bulb. Again, it is light pollution and excessive exposure to screens that are to blame. As Futura Sciences explains, light pollution disrupts our small hormones and our production of melatonin, which is supposed to help us to pear properly. Before, we might have had our throats cut in the streets, but at least we were picking up the slack.
6. It was also very common to cut your night into two parts
“Come on Bernard, we go to bed at 6 p.m., and we wake up at midnight for an hour before starting our second night”. This kind of totally unusual phrases had its place in the world before the light bulb (except for people who were not called Bernard).
Indeed, research on the history of sleep by teacher Roger Ekirch has shown that it was very common to adopt biphasic (two-phase) sleep before the industrial revolution. Finally, it is the appearance of light in the homes that has made it possible to delay the time of the first bedtime and also to have a more serene night since we are less afraid of bandits hitting the encrusted in our diaper in the middle of the night. I refer you to this article from France Culture for more details.
7. In Sweden, people moved their furniture against the walls so they wouldn’t get caught in their knees when they woke up at night.
It’s hard to say how widespread this practice was, but according to this Guardian article, the Swedes did. Always amazing these Swedes.
8. From an architectural point of view, it gave rise to some rather comical proposals
It is difficult to associate the construction of this windowless building in the 1970s with the invention of the small light bulb, I grant you that. But one can imagine that the internal lighting influenced certain buildings.
In reality, this skyscraper, which is a fine example of the brutalist trend in architecture, has no windows for the simple and good reason that it houses the telecom equipment of the AT&T company and that the absence of windows limits the espionage risks.