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...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.

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vilakins
Sep. 9th, 2013 01:24 am (UTC)
Did she go into the self-cleaning ability of unwashed bodies (after several smelly weeks) though? People who don't have access to much water (e.g. in parts of Africa) don't smell, and stranded Westerners who couldn't bathe eventually do hit that point. A friend who did a walking tour in the Amazon said that the Indian guides told the tourists they got muddy because they washed; the mud just slid off the guides' legs.

So past times may not have had a near-opaque atmosphere of BO. Not that I'm willing to try it out.
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