Privacy is starting to seem like a very 20th-century anomaly | David Shariatmadari
By David Shariatmadari
For most of human history, people lived with little or no expectation of a private life. So the new normal, where everyone knows your business, is perhaps not so new – but the golden age of privacy afforded us some important things
Medieval villagers couldn’t afford to be too proud. In Montaillou, home to some 200 souls, people would often sleep several to a bed. That meant that they were constantly picking up lice. No matter: in 14th-century France, delousing was a just another opportunity to socialise. A woman called Raymonde Guilhou, the historian Emmanuel Le Roy LaDurie tells us, publicly deloused her lover, who also happened to be a priest. She performed the same task for his mother, “in full view of everybody in the doorway of the ostal [house], retailing the latest gossip as she did so”.
It’s probably fair to say that Guilhou didn’t have many secrets. The village was her entire world, and that world in turn knew everything about her: family ties, sexual liaisons, personal hygiene. Anything she said might be overheard, or passed on. Anything she wrote – well, she couldn’t write. There was no secret diary of Raymonde Guilhou. Her whole life was shared, and there was nowhere to hide.
November 7, 2015 at 09:00AM
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