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The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History (2007)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 086547690X, Hardcover)
The question of cleanliness is one every age and culture has answered with confidence. For the first-century Roman, being clean meant a two-hour soak in baths of various temperatures, scraping the body with a miniature rake, and a final application of oil. For the aristocratic Frenchman in the seventeenth century, it meant changing your shirt once a day and perhaps going so far as to dip your hands in some water. Did Napoleon know something we didn't when he wrote Josephine "I will return in five days. Stop washing"? And why is the German term Warmduscher--a man who washes in warm or hot water--invariably a slight
against his masculinity? Katherine Ashenburg takes on such fascinating questions as these in Clean, her charming tour of attitudes to hygiene through time.
What could be more routine than taking up soap and water and washing yourself? And yet cleanliness, or the lack of it, is intimately connected to ideas as large as spirituality and sexuality, and historical events that include plagues, the Civil War, and the discovery of germs. An engrossing fusion of erudition and anecdote, Clean considers the bizarre prescriptions of history'sdoctors, the hygienic peccadilloes of great authors, and the historic twists and turns that have brought us to a place Ashenburg considers hedonistic yet oversanitized.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:42 -0400)
"For the first-century Roman, being clean meant a public two-hour soak in baths of various temperatures, a scraping of the body with a miniature rake, and a final application of oil. For the seventeenth-century aristocratic Frenchman, it meant changing his shirt once a day and using perfume to obliterate both his own aroma and everyone else's, but never immersing himself in water. In the early 1900s, an extraordinary idea took hold in North America - that frequent bathing, perhaps even a daily bath, was advisable. Not since the Roman Empire had people been so clean, and standards became even more extreme as the millennium approached. Now we live in a deodorized world where germaphobes shake hands with their elbows and sales of hand sanitizers, wipes, and sprays are skyrocketing." "The apparently routine task of taking up soap and water (or not) is Katherine Ashenburg's starting point for a unique exploration of Western Culture that yields surprising insights about our notions of privacy, health, individuality, religion, and sexuality. Ashenburg searches for clean and dirty in plague-ridden streets, medieval steam baths, castles and tenements, and bathrooms of every description. She reveals the bizarre prescriptions of history's doctors, as well as the hygienic peccadilloes of kings, mistresses, monks, and ordinary citizens, and guides us through the twists and turns to our own understanding of clean, which is no more rational than any other."--BOOK JACKET.
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