Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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Body odor
(790 words)

The term “body odor” refers to the perceived exhalations of one’s own skin and bodily orifices (Body), The attitude toward body odor in the early modern period varied between delight in fragrances, fear of airborne infection, disgust at mass exhalations, and dislike of the “other.” The use of perfume was a status symbol and an investment in one’s personal aura (Latin; literally “breeze, breath”). In the 17th and 18th centuries, however, the suspicion grew that its use compensated for deficient hygiene.

From the end of the Middle Ages to around 1750, hygiene consisted pr…

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Diaconu, Mădălina, “Body odor”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 22 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_022663>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20160907

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