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clean – a global history of human body-care, from pre-historic grooming rituals to New Age medicine, from medieval ascetics to 21st century cosmetics.

Why do children (and their parents) still experience the annoyance of having nits? What exactly are 'purity rules'? And why have the rituals of bathtime scarcely changed in two hundred years?

This pioneering new work explores the global history of human body-care from the Neolithic to the present. Looking at the way in which different cultures have interpreted and striven for personal cleanliness, it shows how this striving for purity has brought great social benefits as well as great tragedies throughout history.

Using first-hand accounts and sources, clean unfolds the long and fascinating history of personal hygiene and purity from pre-historic grooming rituals to New Age medicine, from medieval ascetics to 21st century cosmetics. You can preview the contents and sample text of this hygiene history here.

the author of clean, Dr Virginia Smith

the author

Virginia Smith is an honorary fellow of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She was previously a Fellow of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. Read more …

the publishers

Oxford University Press publish clean at £16.99. You can read more and order your copy on the OUP website …

what they say about clean

Ever wondered where our obession with cleanliness came from? Then read this book … authoritative and fascinating … The New Scientist

Jam packed with historical information The Sunday Telegraph

A breathtaking account of cleanliness from pre-history up to the present day The Sunday Times

Smith has set out, for the very first time, in intricate, intimate, excruciating detail why we live the way we do … lots of fascinating revelations The London Evening Standard

Wonderfully accessible and a riveting read, clean is a tour de force. Once read, grooming the body beautiful can never be the same again. Roger Cooter, Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL

A highly colourful and readable acount, with a great deal of fascinating and original material. Colin Jones, Queen Mary, University of London; author of Paris: Biography of a City

An astonishing work. Virginia Smith has addressed the interrelated histories of grooming, cosmetics, public health, ritual purification, and preventive medicine as well as cleanliness in its most obvious modern sense with both wide learning and panache. Peregrine Horden, Royal Holloway, University of London