September 25, 2007

Moments in the Cultural History of Soap

Filed under: History — Tags: , , , — duncan @ 6:29 pm

“The first step towards lightening

The White Man’s Burden

Is through teaching the virtues of cleanliness.

Pears’ Soap

Is a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances while amongst the cultures of all nations it holds the highest place – it is the ideal toilet soap.” (Ferguson, ‘Empire’, p. 256)

Meanwhile, “Tissot believes that soap can be consumed directly, and that it will calm many nervous ailments; but more often it is sufficient to consume, first thing in the morning, by themselves or with bread, ‘soapy fruits’ – that is, cherries, strawberries, currants, figs, oranges, grapes, ripe pears, and ‘other fruits of this nature’. But there are cases where the difficulty is so serious, the obstruction so irreducible, that no soap can conquer it.” (Foucault, ‘Madness and Civilisation’, p. 157).

Googling ‘Social History of Soap’ brings up countless scholarly works – perhaps tens of thousands. According to this abstract,

“Late 19th century soap advertising relied upon four main ‘fetishes’: the soap, white clothing, mirrors, and monkeys.”

So much to read, and so little time…

1 Comment

  1. yeah
    realy soap!

    Comment by tissot — November 4, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

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