The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History

October 28, 2008|
The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg
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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, using perfume to obliterate both his own aroma and everyone else’ s, but never immersing himself in – horrors! – water. By 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 germophobes shake hands with their elbows and where 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, which yields surprising insights into 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 in bathrooms of every description, revealing the bizarre rescriptions of history. Filled with amusing anecdotes and quotations from the great bathers of history, The Dirt on Clean takes us on a journey that is by turns intriguing, humorous, startling and not always for the squeamish.
KATHERINE ASHENBURG is the author of both books and many magazine and newspaper articles. She has written for The New York Times, The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life, among other publications. Her books include The Mourner''s Dance: What We Do When People Die, The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, which wa...
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Title:The Dirt On Clean: An Unsanitized History
Format:Paperback
Product dimensions:384 pages, 9.01 X 5.51 X 0.81 in
Shipping dimensions:384 pages, 9.01 X 5.51 X 0.81 in
Published:October 28, 2008
Publisher:Knopf Canada
Language:English
Appropriate for ages:All ages
ISBN - 13:9780676976649

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