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Top 10 Myths about the Middle Ages

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 12:52 pm

[quote=""Volgadon""]Something I forgot to point out was that most people had few changes of clothing. Try wearing the same shirt for 5 years straight, day, day out.[/quote]

But shirts and underwear were washed, and regularly. There's enough extant material on washerwomen and laundress's to make a strong case for this. Woollen top garments not so much, but there were refurbishment treatments for these. It would take longer than I have to collate all the evidence scattered through my extensive research library, but it's there, I promise you.
As to bathing. All over bathing was less frequent. King John took a bath once a fortnight, but washing was a part of every day life and had to do with respect as much as cleanliness. It was the other side of the 'Holy dirt' coin.
In my living memory people only took baths once a week and washed in the sink the rest of the time. Deoderants were new fangled too. I don't remember anyone being particularly smelly - although some of that could have come from familiarity with the odours involved.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 1:28 pm

Oh I know that linen was changed, but I meant the accumulative smell in the outer garments.
Familiarity with the odours involved is a good point, you would have to get acustomed to it or feel sick all the time.

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emr
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Post by emr » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 2:15 pm

[quote=""Volgadon""]
Bathing at home was just as difficult. Take a barrel, see how long it takes to fill by hand, then consider that you probably have to walk twenty minutes in each direction to draw water. Heating water was a lengthy process. It also uses up precious firewood. [/quote]

I did try many years ago to fill a bathtub with hot water by hand. The worst part of it was that while you were painfully waiting for more water to heat, the first part was already cooling down.
My opinion? They didnt bathe, in the sense that you cant fill a bathtub to the rim and hapilly sumerge yourself in it. I think the logical way is to fill a bottom, lets say 15, 20 cm of water where you can sit and use it to soap yourself and then wash the rests with a bucket of water. Two extra buckets if you want to wash your hair. And that same bathtub and water serving for the entire family. Something half way between a bath and a shower.

Did they smell? I remember reading that romans used urine to wash clothes and even the teeth :eek: Not sure when the custom got lost.

Hm.. ah women... well during the middle ages as always, same as now, there are different cultures in europe, different races with different customs. Including matriarcal societies rooting way before the romans.

The end of the middle age? I know why you all give the 1485 date as an inflexion but IMO it's 1492. That year marks the start of the knowledge that the world is much bigger than they thought before and many aspects, political, religious, economical, had to be reconsidered.

I'd like to add a bit of light on their grade of civilitation though. Do you know the Convent of Christ in Portugal? It was built by the templars in 1160. Been there, seen it with my own eyes. They had A.C. (heating) in the cells. Seriously.

Emi

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 2:31 pm

[quote=""Volgadon""]Oh I know that linen was changed, but I meant the accumulative smell in the outer garments.
Familiarity with the odours involved is a good point, you would have to get acustomed to it or feel sick all the time.[/quote]

I think you would definitely be accustomed to the smell of your fellows in your surroundings and it would just be normal. Sometimes when we go shopping, there's a woman in the supermarket at the same time who obviously does not wash herself or her clothes. You can smell her a mile away - she leaves a trail that to my modern nose it is strong and unpleasant. However, I also recognise that it's a smell I would be able to adapt to if forced to do so, and if it was the norm I wouldn't notice it.
Having said that, efforts were made to keep outer garments in a reasonable state. See 'Ye Shall Have it Cleane' Textile cleaning techniques in Renaissance Europe by Drea Leed: Paper in Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol 2 edited by Robin Netherton and Gale R. Owen Crocker published by Boydell.
Same book has a painting of medieval washer women hard at it, beating their linens on boards and rinsing them off in the stream.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

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Post by donroc » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 4:47 pm

I remember reading, true or not, that the Masai vomited or were severely nauseated when they first smelled European soap.

It is recorded that Henry IV of France smelled of goat.

We may adapt to a degree, but humans know a vile stench when they encounter it.
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nona
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Post by nona » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 8:10 pm

I always thought that peasants had grains in forms of gruel and bread on a daily basis I didn't realize they had meat on a daily basis too, I thought they only had them on festive days and fresh kills of their own animals if they had them and/or a hunt.

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Post by Libby » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 8:15 pm

Well, I'll go back just 45 years rather than 450. My grandmother lived in a two-up, two down house with no bathroom. There was one cold water tap in the kitchen and a toilet 'down the yard'. She never had a bath. She stripped off in the kitchen and had a 'wash down'.

When I was a child I had a bath once a week in a few inches of water (and bath water was sometimes shared by children in the same family to save the cost of heating the water).

For the rest of the week we washed hands and faces. There was no deodorant. We changed our underwear once a week. We probably did smell!

I would guess that most people in the Middle Ages washed in a basin. If they wanted to bathe they would go to the bath-house except that they became known for prostitution rather than washing.(e.g. the stews in London. so much for cleanliness being next to godliness ;) ).

Important people though would have had enough servants to heat and fill a tub.
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Post by Madeleine » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 8:36 pm

Yes, my mum can remember having an outside loo as well, many houses in London still have outside loos although I think most people now have an inside one as well! Or have the outside one "enclosed" so it's built into the house, up until a few years ago one of my friends still had an outside loo (although she did have a proper bathroom as well). It's true you can get used to smells pretty quickly, I remember when I've visited a farm and at first the smell practically knocked me over, however after a few minutes I didn't really notice it.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 8:57 pm

i remembered a famous little tidbit from ahmed ibn fazlan about the hygine of the viking rus when he travelled amongst them. ahmed was from bagdad where the weather was warm enough for bathing but he was travelling near novogorod where any time spent in cold water would probably kill you. he discussed the rus's morning hygine that a girl would bring a bowl of water to the men. each would wash his face, comb his hair and spit his phlem and blows his shot into the water. we he is done the girl carries the same bowl with the same water to the next man who repeats the process.

one can feel the revulsion in ahmeds report with a disgust that echos through the centuries.

worst of all one really worries about the hygine in anglo-saxon england as their chroniclers often describe vikings as very clean people. if thats what they considered clean....

im gonna go take another shower :-)

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Fri January 23rd, 2009, 9:46 pm

[quote=""nona""]I always thought that peasants had grains in forms of gruel and bread on a daily basis I didn't realize they had meat on a daily basis too, I thought they only had them on festive days and fresh kills of their own animals if they had them and/or a hunt.[/quote]

The peasant class ate a lot less meat than we do now. C.M. Woolgar crops up again in Food in Medieval England which has an exhaustive discussion of the Medieval diet - as it pertained to England obviously! If there wasn't a famine and things were going along okay, a peasant could expect to eat a diet of grains, as you say, with bacon thrown in from the pig (s) slaughtered in November. Every part of that pig would be used and eaten at some point or another. There would be poultry, eggs in season, a certain amount of cheese. Wild food. Fish. You probably wouldn't eat much meat at all in Lent because a) there wasn't much about by that time of year and b) there was the reinforcement of the religious connotations to make you abstain. Ann Hagen's Food in Anglo Saxon England is a good book on the subject of medieval food (goes outside the AS period). Also interesting is Food and Eating in Medieval Europe by Carlin and Rosenthal. There are some terrific essays in that, including one about fast food establishments and another about peasant diet.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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