Dirt, By Virginia Smith, Brian Ralph, Elizabeth Pisani and Rose George

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Published to accompany an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, this enjoyable if rambling book explores various aspects of a phenomenon that we like to wash off, brush away or simply bury.

Exploring dirt in the city, Rose George notes that the invention of the flush toilet in the 1590s banished the smell via the S-bend but also "eradicated sanitation from conversation".

This topic came back with a vengeance in the Great Stink of 1858. The law that produced Joseph Bazalgette's great drainage system was passed within 18 days.

An essay on dirt in the community explores urban muck, from the 10-step wudu (ritual cleansing) of Islam to women wrestling in mud.