sjmiller said:I would like to cast "Dispell Misconception" on this. Here's a nice little quote written by James F Dunnigan and Albert A Nofi on the subject of hygeine in the medieval era. You can find all sorts of information on this in your average college history text or with a quick Google search. In a nutshell, the above quote statement is highly inaccurate.
Popular myth, including television, movies, and fiction, all tend to view the medieval period through the lens of the Renaissance authors who wrote about it. If, however, you look at contemporary source material, you will find that the average medieval was at least moderately clean. Now, they were not as clean as modern standards would like, but they were not generally covered in lice, dirt, and open sores either.
The reason the renaisannce writers wrote about a middle ages where the peasants and pretty much everyone else stank was because the previous century was dominated by the results of the Black Death. The plague raged for 25 years. Huge numbers of people died. 1350 - 1450 was the middle ages everyones grandparents in 1492 talked about. And that was a very different time than the 1000-1350 middle ages. Essentially Europe after 1375 was a post apocalyptic society that thought bathing had caused the problem. After 1375 the population stopped bathing. This can be seen by the change in fasion.