Have you ever wondered what the smell will be like if you don’t bathe for two weeks? The smell is unimaginable. However, it will surprise you to know that most medieval Europeans did that once or twice in their lifetime for some reasons. I will pick stated reasons to bring this surprise to you.
In medieval Sweden, for instance, and in most part of Europe. Then, water is not piped into homes as is the case today.
Hence, unlike Africans, they found it stressful and time-consuming to fetch the water from the stream. That notwithstanding, rural dwellers managed to fetch the water and boil it with wood.
Unfortunately for those, dwelling in the urban areas, there is lesser access to wood. This is because, the more people entered the city, and the more woods are cut down to build houses.
When people go far to the forest to get woods, as it gets to the city gate, it will be taxed. Hence, bathing became a luxury. Individuals established commercial bathing places for everyone, which is also expensive for the ordinary people which made up a large chunk of the city population.
When the Romans came, they introduced public bathing. However, the church later started frowning at public bathing as it promotes nudity, promiscuity, prostitution and moral decadence. So, the lay faithful were admonished to stop public bathing. This also made people to stop bathing.
More so, the commercial bathing places faced a disease related challenge. Physicians then proposed that diseases can easily be transmitted there through the genitals and skin pores. This also made people to limit the number of times they bathed. There was also the proposition that hot water used in bathing open skin pores making it easy for bacteria and viruses to penetrate the body through the skin and cause disease.
King Louis XIV’s physician advised him to evade bathing as possible as he can in order to be healthy. The Russian ambassador’s statement provides evidence to this as he opine that “His Majesty (Louis XIV) stunk like a wild animal.” Louis XIV also made a statement once, that he finds bathing very disturbing. As such, he has only bathed twice in his life time.
Likewise, Queen Isabel 1 of Spain also affirmed her bathe only when she was born and during her wedding – that is twice in her lifetime.
Nevertheless, the truth of what of the assertions of the two monarchies cannot be taken as purely true. This is because they may have in one way or the other been bathed by their parents when they were little.
Nonetheless, it is said that in those days, people used perfume to cover the body stench. Men wore small bags with fragrant herbs and women rub fragrant powder. More so, people rubbed scented rags on their body in lieu of bathing. Some also washed their armpits and parts of their faces as it was then believed that washing the whole face will cause catarrh.
Of course, Africans then definitely did not bathe every day, but, unfailingly every four market days. Not because they find it difficult to fetch water from the stream or to boil the water, but because they mainly want to maintain their makeups. There also the belief then in Africa that constant bathing removes much oil from the skin which is unhealthy.
No matter what one sees in this story of bathing when you compare the bathing behaviour of the two continents, you can conclusively say that the Europeans shy away from anything that appears stressful to them. This will explain why they enslaved Africans and subjected them to heavy farming activities.