Join our mailing list for bookish updates | There's 10% off all books on our website & free UK p&p. Offer applied at checkout


Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: History & Classics


An Unsanitised History of Washing

Katherine Ashenburg

'Ashenburg rolls up her sleeves and takes us on an engaging tour of hygiene through the ages. Her masterful mix of erudition and anecdote makes this a fascinating, fast-paced read' - Time Out

eBook (ePUB/MOBI)?
9781847653369 (6 Jan 2011)

About the book

'I return to Paris in five days. Stop washing.' So wrote Napoleon to Josephine in an age when body odour was considered an aphrodisiac. In stark contrast, the Romans used to bath for hours each day. Ashenburg's investigation of history's ambivalence towards personal hygiene takes her through plague-ridden streets, hospitals and battlefields. From the bizarre prescriptions of doctors to the eccentricities of famous bathers, she presents us with all the twists and turns that have led us to our own, arbitrary notion of 'clean'.

About the author

Katherine Ashenburg has worked as an academic, a radio producer and Arts and Books editor of the Globe and Mail. She has written for the New York Times and her books include The Mourner's Dance: What We Do When People Die. She lives in Toronto.


The only possible complaint about Ashenburg's exceptionally enjoyable book is that, being beautifully designed and illustrated, it is not suitable for reading in the bath

- John Carey, The Sunday Times

Thought provoking, charming and great fodder for dinner-party chat, this is a memorable read

- Time Out

This is a sparkling, discursive and witty history: good, clean fun

- Cressida Connolly, New Statesman

[T]errific history of personal hygiene ... A wonderfully interesting and amusing book

- Daily Mail

Here is a splendid history of the amazingly different attitudes that various civilisations have taken towards water

- Nicholas Bagnall, Sunday Telegraph

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: History & Classics