Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

September Books 1) Clean: An Unsanitised History of Washing, by Katherine Ashenburg

...much of Europe took a long hiatus when it came to regular washing, roughly from the last Middle Ages to the eighteenth of nineteenth century, and non-Westerners who encountered Europeans in those centuries were often stunned by their abysmal hygiene.
A quite fascinating account of how the concept of cleanliness in Europe and later North America was basically a social construct, how the Roman habit of daily bathing was not resumed until as recently as a century ago. The two key images that stuck with me were, first, the concentration on clean clothes rather than a clean body for the days of the Enlightenment, with Casanova priding himself on his twelve shirts; and second, the role of military hygiene, with soldiers ordered to wash every day to prevent illness, as a catalyst for changing the wider habits of society. It may be a mere social construct but I still need my shower every morning.
Tags: bookblog 2013

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