Dr Virginia Smith is a freelance historian who has been working on the history of cleanliness for twenty-five years full- and part-time. This includes an M.Phil on cleanliness in Victorian fiction at Edinburgh University, the history of nineteenth century public baths and wash-houses at the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D and Fellowship on popular health books 1500-1850 at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, under the supervision of the late Roy Porter.
Freelance work has included temporary teaching, book reviewing, compiling dictionary entries for the DNB (amongst others), three years as a medical receptionist, and researching clean: a history of personal hygiene and purity. She is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, working on an oral history project entitled Grooming and Health beliefs: modern personal hygiene 1945 to 2007.
On-going research interests include the history of cosmetics, spas, nudity, time theory, and contemporary health policies. She lives in London with husband John Cumming and daughter Kate.
Thomas Tryon's regimen for women: sectarian health in the seventeenth century
Originally published in The Sexual Dynamics of History, London Feminist History Group (ed), Pluto Press, London 1983, pp.47-65
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Cleanliness: the development of idea and practice in Britain, 1770-1850, University of London Ph.D 1985
Prescribing the rules of health: self-help and advice in the late eighteenth century in Patients and practitioners: lay perceptions of medicine in pre-industrial society, Roy Porter (ed), CUP 1985, pp 249-282
Physical Puritanism and Sanitary Science: material and immaterial beliefs in popular physiology, 1650-1840 in Medical Fringe and Medical Orthodoxy 1750-1850, W.F.Bynum & Roy Porter (eds), Croom Helm 1987, pp174-197
The Popularisation of Medical Knowledge: the Case of Cosmetics in Society for the Social History of Medicine Bulletin, June 1987 (40), pp 12-15.
clean: a history of personal hygiene and purity, Oxford University Press, 2007