Bathing and Hygiene

The importance placed on bathing and hygiene fluctuated greatly throughout European history. A Roman emphasis on cleanliness led to the creation of public baths in Europe and southern Britain during the Roman Empire. For wealthy families, this attention continued from the fall of the Roman Empire through the medieval period. Most castles were equipped with tubs for bathing, usually with water hauled both in and out by servants. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, bathing was no longer valued. Public baths were viewed as dangerous and promiscuous places, where disease spread easily. The close, cramped quarters endured by most people and their lack of access to water also made bathing difficult. As colonists began moving to North America in the early seventeenth century, these obstacles to bathing, both societal and practical, were compounded by the difficulties of early settlement. The late eighteenth century saw a renewed focus in bathing and hygiene on both sides of the Atlantic, predominantly for the upper classes. This renewed interest in cleanliness reflected many changes of the period. Increased trade led to often-rapid transformations of fortune, simultaneously threatening the traditional upper class while creating a larger middle class. Wealthy families needed a means of demonstrating their continued superior position in society. In contrast, families suddenly made financially comfortable as a result of exploration and trade needed a means of demonstrating how they were different from those in the lower class. Both groups sought recognition through the same means: the demonstration of gentility through personal refinement. While well-tailored clothing, a large house, and elegant furniture were an instant indication of wealth, they were all things that could be purchased. Good grooming implied custom and background that could be gained only through birth. The other motivation for greater hygiene reflects the scientific discoveries of the age. In the Renaissance period, some people had believed that bathing was harmful to the skin, removing oils necessary for good health. This belief also may have been reinforced by concerns about the dangers of public baths. By the late eighteenth century, new research suggested that the skin created grease and perspiration, which should be removed with soap and water. A popular source for this information was William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine. First published in London in 1769, it had gone through seventeen American editions by 1800.One of the most advanced hygiene lift chairs available alltravel8A highly efficient solution for assisted bathing alltravel8Baby Bathing In Sink Stock Photo Getty Images alltravel8

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