Tuesday, November 30, 2010

[Hannah]: I Don't Need a Bath, Just a New Shirt.

For a long time, if an individual smelt, that meant he was strong and prosperous, as many proverbs testify. Plague was combated with the mustiness of night soil, dungheaps at the door did not inconvenience anyone and showed how well-off a household was... People feared losing their strength in bathwater if they washed too much, and babies grew all the better if they had a thick crust of dirt on their heads. Taking warm baths was linked to lasciviousness.... To conclude, the French, associating a strong smell with good health, kept up a long-lasting collective distrust regarding all ablutions...

Two great movements are observable ... between the seventeenth century and the nineteenth. On the one hand, the civilisation of manners gradually imposed on everyone some new constraints in bodily habits. On the other, the consumption of water remained stable for a long time, whereas that of linen increased in line with the standards of the new propriety.

- Daniel Roche, A History of Everyday Things


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