Posted by Kate on July 13, 1997 at 19:49:32:
In reply to Re: Long Post on keeping clean, and a couple of questions posted by Caroline on July 11, 1997 at 11:26:39
] ] This is really interesting Caroline, however I have some questions...
] ] Yes keeping clean feels good. But would you be quite so keen on it if it meant washing in an out house in freezing cold water in the middle of winter, or if you had to carry all your water a longish distance? I suspect being clean was a lot easier if you had servants to carry and heat the water.
] In freezing conditions, I would be much less keen!But we are talking England here, where water rarely freezes over for more than a couple of days a year.And once you get to freezing conditions, Kate, you sweat less, and you pick up less(frozen) dirt, too. My husband spends about three weeks each year in the Arctic winter, and he washes every day, if at all possible. He strip washes, and at the end of three weeks, he doesn't arrive home stinking.
....... When I said "freezing" I didn't actually mean freezing, I just meant cold (be precise, Kate!) I agree that you don't get so smelly when it's cold (although smoking fires can always make your hair smell). But even when its chilly, washing in cold water can be really unpleasant, though, of course, it's nice to be clean. My only experience in this respect (cold showers in temps a bit above freezing) were that the temptation to leave washing for a couple of days was pretty high...
] As to carrying water a long distance, well yes, you are right,but that isn't a real problem in England, where there was no real water shortage until this century, and the siting of a house was often dependent on finding a water supply.
... yes, but even if there was a creek or river 500 yards away, many people (especially the poor) would still have had to carry that water, and water is very heavy (as I know from carting home gallon bottles of drinking water from the store). Carrying enough to wash in would not have been something you would do even every week. And though it would have been ok for the men to strip off and swim in the river (or the pond ;-) ) this would not have been ok for women. I suppose what I am saying is that the tremendous cleanliness people noted was probably confined to the wealthier people, and would certainly not have extended to poor city dwellers where life was dirtier and water hard to get.
] I think my point here is that most visiters who did comment about British hygeine at the time seem to be astonished at its cleanliness.
] ] Also, how many little boys (and girls for that matter) have to be absolutely FORCED to wash their face and hands before coming to the dinner table - perhaps we like cleanliness because we know how much it relates to good health.
] yes, Mine cannot see the point of washing thier hands with soap. But most kids have absolutely no objection at all to puddles, ponds, lawn sprinklers etc. They play in these because it is a pleasurable experience.The quickest way to get a whole campful of cubscouts clean, in my experience, is to get them to jump into water. I never have problems making them do this! Most dirt doesn't actually need soap, only water.
....see above re women and outdoor washing...
] Also, it is not all that long ago that fresh air and clean water were regarded as positively unhealthy. I was watching a fascinating doco on the plague last night which talked about how people stopped washing because they thought they might catch the plague from the water...
] City air and water has always been recognised as dangerous and polluted (In medieval London,communal privys were fairly strictly regulated) And there were many panic reactions to the plague, all kinds of remedies tried. Country air and water has always been a bit cleaner. Can you imagine Lizzy Bennet going for long walks if it was considered dangerous by Jane Austen and her contemporaries? Would Jane's rich brother have built a bathing house on the stream at Godmersham if the water wasn't to be trusted?
] Kate, the plagues were basically 1342 and 1666, not 1800. There was a big change in mindset between the Restoration period and the end of the eighteenth century.
...the plague was just meant to be an example (I was a history major!) of how ideas about what was medically acceptable have changed. They were certainly still bleeding people in the 1800s and medical theories about "vapours" rising from the earth to infect people were still around - they still didn't understand about infection (does anyone know when bacteria were discovered?)
...Of course fresh air wasn't regarded as unhealthy to healthy people. But when people were sick, often the windows were left closed to keep out the "vapours"...(I'll try to find a source about this).
] ] Although I think you're right to say that it makes sense that people kept clean, we have incredibly high standards of cleanliness that would simply have been impossible to meet in generations past....
] Agreed. I am not suggesting that they were as clean as us, only that they may not have been as dirty as some people seem to think, and I am trying to relate strictly to Jane Austen's England, not to any other time or place.
....;-). Cool. Which makes my comments about the city (above) a bit irrelevant...
] When I was in Europe however, I found that a lot of people would only shower every second day and would have a stand up at the basin wash in betweeen - they didn't feel the need to get water on every part of their body every day.
] Yes, exactly. Is that being dirty?
...Not at all.
] I must look for a book on the history of hygiene...
] Me too. Let us know if you find a good one, won't you!
] Kate, I'm glad you brought these points up.It does me good to have my ideas questioned, and have to re-think them!
...This had also made me think I'd like to find something out about contemporary medical practice too...
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