When did personal hygiene become important?

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Nick

Historum Emeritas
Jul 2006
6,111
UK
#2
19th century when scientific discoveries led to people becoming worried about dirt. Before that people rarely washed or bathed.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2008
2,176
Sacramento, CA
#3
Of course, the discovery that there were microscopic germs all over the place was an essential step toward sanitary medicinal and food handling practices. However, the history of bathing and personal hygiene goes back much farther than the 19th century, particularly if we're not solely discussing washing to eliminate germs from hands, on food, etc.

Additionally, in many cultures (particularly non-European societies), ritual or regular bathing was part of the culture (ancient Roman, Jewish, Japanese, and Islamic views toward bathing are good examples).

Here's a decent overview: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/baths.html
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#4
I'll second all of that. Nice link with some nice old fashion woodcuts too.
The dietary laws of the old testament indicate how old the custom is of proper food handling. As an aside: In Arab cultures the hand you eat with is never used to clean with after vacating. That may be part of the reason we shake hands with the right hand, i.e. the clean hand.
 
Mar 2008
2,176
Sacramento, CA
#5
As an aside: In Arab cultures the hand you eat with is never used to clean with after vacating. That may be part of the reason we shake hands with the right hand, i.e. the clean hand.
I believe that is also the reason that a common punishment (usually for thievery) in some Arab and other cultures is to cut off the right hand. First - ouch! Second - seriously inconvenient.
 

Toltec

Ad Honorem
Apr 2008
7,923
Hyperborea
#6
A better question would be when did personal hygene become unimportant, as bath houses were common throughout europe right up until medieval times when the church had them closed down.
 
#7
People were very afraid of some water especially in 17th, 18th century. They thought that without their " coat of grime " they were more in danger faced with diseases. Besides, in Versailles for instance there were not almost toilets, then people made their needs in curtains.It was really a very dirty period...

I think, that in France, hygiene became important after revolution. With Bonaparte, there were already more tubs in flats, we did not hide them any more as before.
 

Afrasiyab

Ad Honorem
Sep 2007
6,378
#8
I dont know much about the mythology of hygiene in Europe but being clean is a part of religious rituals in the East. I know the ecological hygiene is more outstanding in Europe than it is in the East :X Fair enough;

* Ablution: before doing prayers in Islam, preforming to NAMAZ or SALAH, you must wash certains parts of your body: hands, forehead, nostrils, mouth, feet, forearms and ears and face.

* After sex or masturbation (in cases of ejaculation) you HAVE to take ablution too, which is called GUSÛL in Islamic terminology. Again, washing your mouth (gargling water), nostrils and your entire body.

* I do not wanna go into the private cleaning called TAHARET. :D
 
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Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#9
Speaking of bath houses. Shown here is a scene in a Bath House from a 15th century French manuscript of Valerius Maximus. It is in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Thanks to the out break of realism around this time we get a composite picture of the manners of the time. The important institution of the "stew" furnished an opportunity of portraying nudes of both sexes, a material which found its main exponent in Albrecht Durer [umlaut over the U]. I'm not sure I'd enjoy taking my meals in the same tub with a bunch of others.

 
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