This wonderful post comes from Pen and Pension, the blog of William Savage. Will writes historical mystery novels, set in Norfolk between 1760 and 1800. His first in this series, “An Unlamented Death”, appeared in January 2015. The second book, “The Fabric of Murder” was published in May 2015. The third installment, “The Code for Killing”, will be published on 25th January, 2016.
As I noted in a recent posting, one of the myths that goes the rounds is that everyone in the past was always dirty. It isn’t true. The wealthy weren’t, the poor almost certainly were. As I pointed out there, the costs associated with keeping yourself clean were considerable, both in money and time. In a society in which cleanliness and class mirrored each other, keeping not just your body but your clothing and linens clean was straightforward for the rich, a matter of continual care and concern for the middling sort, and probably a hopeless dream for most of the poor.
Don’t misunderstand me. No one in the eighteenth century could hope to match current personal hygiene standards. The means to do so were not available, not would it have been considered necessary. But within what was possible, most people above the very lowest income levels did what…
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