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Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  102 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In this pioneering book, Virginia Smith combines archeology, psychology, biology, and sociology to reveal how and why standards of cleanliness have come to exist today. Using hundreds of first-hand accounts and sources, Smith bring us from the Neolithic age to the present, peppering her engaging prose with enlightening and often surprising details.
Subconscious cleanlines
Hardcover, 457 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published May 24th 2007)
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Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
This fat little book was full of interesting tidbits, and as a bonus, I'm pretty sure my library copy has actaully been dropped IN THE BATHTUB at some point. I had been eagerly anticipating reading this, and although I certainly learned some new things, most of it was rather slow going...More academic than I had imagined. (Then, just when I had gotten used to the pace and exhaustive amount of detail, it practically fast-forwarded through the 20th century and I felt like the ending was quite abru ...more
What a weird book. Smith makes downright odd assertions. For instance: "Elizabeth [Tudor] was known to be fussy about her health--she hated being ill" (189). Yeah, well, so do a lot of people. Or Louis XIV refused to bath but "was kept perfectly clean by his attendants, who continually rubbed him down with scented linen cloths, changed sweaty shirts at night, and changed his complete costume two or three times a day at least" (194). But being rubbed with a scented linen cloth won't get dirty dis ...more
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I should note that I speed read this for work, so I didn't get to really immerse myself in it as much as I like to with pleasure reading. But still, this one provides an interesting historical look at the interwoven notions of physical and spiritual hygiene. I may have to come back to it and give it a proper read.
Araminta Matthews
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a much needed scholarly journey into the history of hygienic practices amongst various ancient (and modern) cultures of Western Civilization. At the same time, I felt the Eastern representation was decidedly lacking and could have been present in this book. Still, I'm completely inspired to make my own Balm of Gilead, now.
Sydney Martinie
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Good book but reads like a dissertation. Many references for the same idea so it gets repetitive but overall a very interesting read.
Victor Sonkin
A bit boring account, and the occurrence of 'Roman historian Herodotus' makes me doubt its academic soundness (to be fair, that was the only obvious blunder I have spotted).
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was an interesting book and the amount of detail in many of the sections, especially Ancient Egypt and Medieval Europe was excellent.

It was frustrating that it was billed as a global history of hygiene when essentially it is a European history, and mainly dealing with Britain. I think there's nothing wrong with choosing a small geographical scope (especially when the time horizon is Neolithic era to present day in 350 pages) but it shouldn't claim to be global.

I also found that, while it was
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting in parts, but the book requires a fair understanding of philosophy and its histories to follow it properly. I was also more interested in 20th century hygiene history and that was only a small part of the book - perhaps I just wasn't the right audience.
May 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was only able to skim through this book but what I did read was very interesting and fascinating. When I get some extra time, I'll definitely re-order it again.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I was really enjoying this book, but had to return it to the library before I finished.
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