The foul and the fragrant: what did the past smell like? - Deepstash
The Easter Celebration

Learn more about history with this collection

Different Easter traditions around the world

The significance of Easter eggs and bunnies in modern culture

The importance of the holiday in the Christian faith

The Easter Celebration

Discover 44 similar ideas in

It takes just

7 mins to read

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • In the not-so-distant past, most American and European cities reeked of death, decay, and waste.  
  • However, these are just some of the many smells, both foul and fragrant, that helped determine the course of history.
  • From Roman funerals to Aztec chewing gum, the historic role of smell was much more important than we realize.


94 reads

The Nose Knows It All

The Nose Knows It All

  • Most 19th century cities smelled like a combination of raw sewage, horse manure, piles of uncollected garbage baking in the sun, and, last but not least, the "odorous slaughtering and processing of animals"
  • Things weren't much better in Paris which, despite its reputation as the city of love, smelled like anything except roses


66 reads

Foul Smell And Germs: The Miasma Theory

Foul Smell And Germs: The Miasma Theory

The Scientific Revolution introduced the now disproven but once widely accepted notion that illnesses spread through foul odours like those emanating from cesspools, garbage dumps, and animal carcasses.

Doctors advised their patients to avoid these odours — known as “miasmas” — like the plague, and they continued to do so until germ theory became more widely accepted in the later half of the 19th century.


65 reads

Bad Smells Everywhere

Bad Smells Everywhere

Miasma theory affected nearly every part of civilization, from politics to the economy. Perfumes made from animal musk — common in Europe since the early Middle Ages — disappeared in favour of floral scents. Instead of sniffing their own latrines, people now covered their apartments with various sweet-smelling plants to block out noxious gases from the outside world.


50 reads

Smell Beyond Stench

Smell Beyond Stench

  • William Tullett, a history professor at Anglia Ruskin University, thinks modern media may have exaggerated the stench of past centuries.
  • Our obsession with stench may be rooted in some contorted form of xenophobia.
  • Recent global research suggests that the current literature on smell in history is not only too simplistic but also too Eurocentric.
  • While particular smells demarcated certain social standings in pre-revolutionary France, the same standards did not apply to other countries.


49 reads

Perfuming The Dead

Perfuming The Dead

  • Romans treated their dead with perfumes, ointments, and incense while they lay in state.
  • These fragrances combated the “pollution” inside the corpse.
  • Perfuming the dead was so important to ancient Romans that it often took precedence over other social customs.


60 reads



Always appreciate the time you get, because you never know how much longer it`ll last.

More like this

History of perfume

9 ideas

History of perfume

Why Do Smells Trigger Memories?

2 ideas

Why Do Smells Trigger Memories?


Explore the World’s

Best Ideas

200,000+ ideas on pretty much any topic. Created by the smartest people around & well-organized so you can explore at will.

An Idea for Everything

Explore the biggest library of insights. And we've infused it with powerful filtering tools so you can easily find what you need.

Knowledge Library

Powerful Saving & Organizational Tools

Save ideas for later reading, for personalized stashes, or for remembering it later.

# Personal Growth

Take Your Ideas


Organize your ideas & listen on the go. And with Pro, there are no limits.

Listen on the go

Just press play and we take care of the words.

Never worry about spotty connections

No Internet access? No problem. Within the mobile app, all your ideas are available, even when offline.

Get Organized with Stashes

Ideas for your next work project? Quotes that inspire you? Put them in the right place so you never lose them.


2 Million Stashers


5,740 Reviews

App Store


72,690 Reviews

Google Play

Sean Green

Great interesting short snippets of informative articles. Highly recommended to anyone who loves information and lacks patience.

Ashley Anthony

This app is LOADED with RELEVANT, HELPFUL, AND EDUCATIONAL material. It is creatively intellectual, yet minimal enough to not overstimulate and create a learning block. I am exceptionally impressed with this app!


Don’t look further if you love learning new things. A refreshing concept that provides quick ideas for busy thought leaders.

Shankul Varada

Best app ever! You heard it right. This app has helped me get back on my quest to get things done while equipping myself with knowledge everyday.

Laetitia Berton

I have only been using it for a few days now, but I have found answers to questions I had never consciously formulated, or to problems I face everyday at work or at home. I wish I had found this earlier, highly recommended!

Jamyson Haug

Great for quick bits of information and interesting ideas around whatever topics you are interested in. Visually, it looks great as well.

Ghazala Begum

Even five minutes a day will improve your thinking. I've come across new ideas and learnt to improve existing ways to become more motivated, confident and happier.

Giovanna Scalzone

Brilliant. It feels fresh and encouraging. So many interesting pieces of information that are just enough to absorb and apply. So happy I found this.

Read & Learn

20x Faster





Access to 200,000+ ideas

Access to the mobile app

Unlimited idea saving & library

Unlimited history

Unlimited listening to ideas

Downloading & offline access

Personalized recommendations

Supercharge your mind with one idea per day

Enter your email and spend 1 minute every day to learn something new.


I agree to receive email updates