The module examines nineteenth-century Britain and the British world through public debates, practices, objects and environments related to dirt and cleanliness. It explores ideas the Victorians held about: urban dirt of human and animal waste; air and water pollution; washing and deodorising the Victorian body; the ‘cleansing’ of language and culture; cultural history of soap; ideas of pollution in terms of the racial ‘other’. These are selected to reveal key aspects of the social, cultural and intellectual, political history of the period. Each week students on this module will work with Dr Gregory'get their hands dirty' exploring a key theme using a range of primary sources including literature, cartoons, song and artefacts.

Topics covered by this module include:

  • Histories of the body and personal hygiene
  • Decency and indecency - satire and scatological cartoons
  • Dirty Environments - the problem of sewage and horse manure
  • Dirt and Disease - miasmatic theory and cholera, water supplies
  • Air pollution - smut and coal
  • Pollution legislation - public health; fresh air and ventilation
  • Filth and popular culture
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness - moral and public hygiene, Port Sunlight and Lever
  • Soap and the Victorians
  • Cleansing the body - nude bathing, public baths