Sunday, 18 May 2008

Book ~ "The Dirt on Clean" (2007) Katherine Ashenburg

From ~ According to Ashenburg, the Western notion of cleanliness is a complex cultural creation that is constantly evolving, from Homer's well-washed Odysseus, who bathes before and after each of his colorful journeys, to Shaw's Eliza Doolittle, who screams in terror during her first hot bath. The ancient Romans considered cleanliness a social virtue, and Jews practiced ritual purity laws involving immersion in water. Abandoning Jewish practice, early Christians viewed bathing as a form of hedonism; they embraced saints like Godric, who, to mortify the flesh, walked from England to Jerusalem without washing or changing his clothes. Yet the Crusaders imported communal Turkish baths to medieval Europe. From the 14th to 18th centuries, kings and peasants shunned water because they thought it spread bubonic plague, and Louis XIV cleaned up by donning a fresh linen shirt. Americans were as filthy as their European cousins before the Civil War, but the Union's success in controlling disease through hygiene convinced its citizens that cleanliness was progressive and patriotic. Brimming with lively anecdotes, this well-researched, smartly paced and endearing history of Western cleanliness holds a welcome mirror up to our intimate selves, revealing deep-seated desires and fears spanning 2000-plus years.

Very interesting book!

I shower most days and love taking baths at night to relax.

I can't imagine not showering or taking a bath for years at a time. That's just nasty! But that's the way it was.

It's amazing to read that people would be afraid of taking baths. Or scraped their skin to get clean. Or smelled incredibly bad.

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