History Society Guest Lecture Series: Prof. Steven Zdatny: France's Hygiene Revolution of the 1950s

Prof. Zdatny will explore how everyday practices in personal hygiene were part of a wider revolution which saw cultures of cleanliness intersect with consumerism in mid-century France.

Any of us dropped into the daily life of 19th-century France would be struck before anything else by the smell...of crowded apartments without ventilation or water, of collective outdoor latrines with no means of evacuation, of clothes never changed, feet rarely washed, and teeth that had never met a toothbrush.

Join us for this History Society lecture to hear Professor Zdatny (University of Vermont) explain how these conditions, and the smells that went with them, changed dramatically in the twentieth century, and especially after 1945, as mass-produced soap and synthetic shampoo followed running water into homes and shops. Privies moved from courtyards to staircase landings and into apartments, while apartments themselves were increasingly furnished with water heaters, washing machines, sinks, bidets, and bathtubs. People began to change their underwear, wash their clothes, use deodorant, and shower more-or-less regularly. This all represented a revolution in practices and sensibilities unique in history.

No need to book, just come along. 

Contact us

Dr Alys Beverton