Indeed, improvements in technology were so important that the one chapter Bryson devotes to something other than a room in the house or a physical area in or around the house is his chapter on the fuse box. Electricity truly revolutionized life. Bryson writes, “The world at night for much of history was a very dark place indeed.” A good candle, he adds, “provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100-watt lightbulb.” Although Bryson makes a good case for how important lighting was and is, he would have made an even stronger case had he drawn on the pathbreaking work by Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus. In a study done in 1996, Nordhaus found that failure to adjust appropriately for the plummeting cost of light has led economic historians to dramatically understate the growth of real wages over the last 200 years. That one invention, plus many others, led to a burgeoning middle class.

This is from David R. Henderson, “Home Economics,” Policy Review, February 1, 2011. It’s my review of Bill Bryson’s excellent book At Home: A Short History of Private Life.

For some reason, I’ve been appreciating electricity more lately. When our power came on at about 5:00 p.m. last Friday, we had already rented a motel room. My wife and my visiting daughter stayed there and I went home from the motel to feed the cats. The electricity gave me a lot of energy, so to speak, and I moved around the house, tidying things up and putting lanterns away, as if I had the energy of a 20-year old.

There’s probably more to say, but that’s it for now.