Hygiene, Health, Pleasure, and Propriety: a Workshop on the History of Bathing

REGISTRATION: To participate please email either charlotta.forss@history.ox.ac.uk or sasha.rasmussen@history.ox.ac.uk

Deadline for registration: Thursday 5 May 2022

A link to the online workshop will be circulated to those registered beforehand


This workshop is organised in cooperation with the Centre for Gender, Identity and Subjectivity (CGIS), University of Oxford

Hygiene, Health, Pleasure, and Propriety
A Workshop on the History of Bathing

Thursday 12 May 2022, 09:30-12:30 - Online

This workshop is an opportunity for postgraduates and early careers to engage with the study of bathing and how it can enrich historical research. Through hands-on discussion of source materials, methods, and themes, we will explore bathing practices as historically situated phenomena. In the bath, ideas about healthy living and hygiene, bodily pleasure, and gendered concerns surrounding propriety come to the fore. At the same time, the social, political and religious meanings given to rituals of bathing have varied widely across time and space. This creates a fruitful ground for comparisons and makes the bath an ideal lens through which to study how social practices are embedded in time and place.

The workshop comprises two main elements. First, we will work with concrete primary source examples to explore how these might be used in historical analysis: for example, the potential of court records as a source on bathing practices in early modern Europe, and taking insights from sensory history as an entry point to gendered experiences of bathing in nineteenth-century Russia. Second, we will relate this round-table discussion to the current research interests of the participants and offer reciprocal feedback to help one another conceptualize our research in new ways.

In preparation for the workshop, participants will be asked to read a few short extracts, and to provide a one-page reflection about bathing as a theme of historical analysis in relation to their own work. Questions to consider might include: What did taking a bath entail in the society and time period you study? What kinds of sources do you have at your disposal to study this? How can bathing inform questions about hygiene, health, pleasure, and propriety in your work?

Please send your text to charlotta.forss@history.ox.ac.uk by 5 May 2022. All participant texts will be circulated before the workshop, and each participant will be invited to provide comments on one or two texts.