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Cleanliness and the poor in eighteenth-century London

Falcini, L. (2018) Cleanliness and the poor in eighteenth-century London. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This study identifies the ways in which the urban poor both experienced and engaged with cleanliness during the long eighteenth century. It argues that the poor not only participated in acts of cleanliness but they did so multiple ways, sometimes as a client, at others as a service provider but more often than not as a strategist engaging in actions that enabled them to acquire clean clothing, bodies or surroundings. By drawing on a wide range of archival and printed sources it examines aspects of everyday plebeian life that have hitherto remained uncharted. It suggests that no single cleanliness regime – neither based on full-body immersion, nor ‘clean linen’, existed in eighteenth-century London. Instead, it posits that at least two regimes were present, and that, if anything, working men were most likely to pursue bodily cleanliness through river bathing. It also argues that even among the institutions of the capital, there were real disagreements about cleanliness, with most institutions adopting a clean linen regime, while prisons and lock-ups preserved an older regime. Overall, this thesis seeks to demonstrate that eighteenth-century cleanliness cannot be understood, without locating it in the specific circumstances of class, community and gender.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Smith, C. and Hitchcock, T.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Law
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:82402

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