Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Would You Go Without Bathing for Three Months for Research?"

"How To Be A Tudor - A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Tudor Life" by Ruth Goodman   Liveright Publishing   320 pages   $29.95

So we're all together here (and I had to look it up, not being an English history scholar) the Tudor period existed from 1485 to 1603.  Henry the VIII reigned and killed wives with some frequency during these years.

The book starts with the rooster's crow awaking the sleeper.  There were only three cities; everyone else lived in the suburbs where they might keep a cow and certainly chickens.  The sleeper who was poor slept in masses of straw on the floor; the rich had canopied beds (to keep the heat in during winter.)  

One of today's first-thing-in-the-morning things is to shower.  Bathing in those days was considered extremely dangerous and rare was the person who bathed in hot water with soap.  And yet, personal hygiene was of primary concern.  Smelling sweet and fresh was very important to men and women of all classes. 

They used linen squares to scrub their dry bodies every morning. They did wash their hands and splash their faces with water. They also put on a clean pair of underpants every day.   As only the rich were well off enough to have a large supply of underpants, the poor had to make do with perhaps three pairs.  One being worn, one clean waiting and one in the laundry.  Underpants were often listed in the person's Last Will and Testament and given to survivors.   

 Goodman decided to try this and for three months did.  She remarked that while you might think the person would reek to high heaven, she didn't so, probably, they didn't either. 

She wrote that clean teeth were important as a part of personal hygiene.  Toothpicks were used at the table   Various powders (soot, or salt or ground cloves) were applied with vigor to the teeth with fingers or a small square of cloth.   

Frankly I was surprised to see this concern with personal hygiene as I had known people Back Then never or rarely bathed so I figured that everyone who couldn't afford perfume stank like the devil.

It's "refreshing" to learn I was wrong!

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