Poor hygeine in old Europe?

I recently watched “Perfume”. Was everything really that filthy in Paris (and elsewhere) back in the day?
I’ve also noticed dirty characters in movies of that era.
Come to think, when I was younger, in the fifties, it was common for people to a weekly bath. Adults and kids.
Are we missing something by being so clean?

Sure we are. Body lice. :slight_smile:

From what I’ve read (in historical novels), if you were wealthy enough to have servants to carry water, you might have an occasional bath.

On the other hand, I’ve read some historical novels that made a big deal about cleanliness and tidiness – sweeping off the stoop, changing the rushes on the floor, cleaning cookware with sand, polishing the glass in windows, airing out the bed linens.

I think it depended on where, when, and who you were.

I think it safe to say every era has it’s slums and up scale neighborhoods. Every one of those places would have the persons that are inclined to be slovenly in hygiene. The poor had people added that were finally broken by the conditions that poorness causes. It costs labor to keep stuff clean, and if you can barely use your labor to get food and other immediate necessities, you can’t use it to clean up everything. Even with all the mechanical advantages today, people come home to tired to do anything else. How more so for a society that uses human muscle and some animal muscle?

We are in the process of de-fleaing our house, as noted in another thread. Our cats have fleas. Most fleas are species-specific, and don’t care to try new things. Nevertheless, it’s been a pain to try to eliminate the fleas. And we’re using modern flea sprays, vacuums, washing machines, and frequent and regular baths for cats and humans.

I cannot imagine trying to successfully de-flea a pre-modern house, short of throwing out and burning most of it. The fleas would remain in any comfortablt cloth burrow they could find, especially clothes, bedclothes, and furniture. Passing and transient people would provide comfortable retreats and places to re-infect from.
So, yeah, I’m sure in a pre-Industrial household fleas, ticks, mites, and lice would be a constant companionship.

Eighteenth century France.
The movie made it a point that pretty much everything and everyone stank.

Do we know that that’s accurate though? Maybe it just added something to the movie to emphasize everyone’s smelliness. ::shrugs:: I dunno.

Yeah. That’s what I’m wondering. Seems like they’d have tons of sores, etc.

Until very recently:

People didn’t brush their teeth.

People didn’t wear deodorant.

Soap was made out of unpurified animal fats.

Only the rich could afford perfumed materials.

Water was scarce and few even saw the necessity for bathing.

Clothes washing was labor-intensive, so was generally reserved for when clothese were utterly filthy.

(No cite, but my brother was telling me he read a historical book about medieval England where every fall the poor rubbed their kids in goose fat to keep lice and grime off, then sewed them into their clothing for the winter.)

Up until the last century or less, everyone stank, everywhere.

I guess the nearest to that way of life I’ve encountered was in Tibet, and believe me, most people stank, and many were constantly covered in dirt.

Most of those are ridiculous overgeneralizations. As with so many questions, it really depends on when and where.

I think the question was about continental Europe.