The hygienists

In the 19th century, a strong hygienist movement advocating a set of measures and procedures aimed at preserving and improving health developed throughout France. This scholarly discourse, linked to scientific advances in the age of positivism, gave a social utility to this individual cleanliness, which became more and more invisible with Louis Pasteur’s discoveries on microbes.

« Hygiene is therefore, after morality, which teaches us our duties and rights, the most useful of all sciences, the one whose precepts no one should ignore. Without health, none of the other goods have any real value, and those who are deprived of it are incapable of fulfilling their role in society in a satisfactory manner, of raising their families, of supporting their parents in their old age, of usefully serving their country. »

E. Aubert and A. Lapresté, Cours élémentaire d’hygiène, Paris,1893.

The promoters of these ideas in the Périgord were often doctors, large landowners, local elected officials, members of learned or agricultural societies, and could thus all the more participate in the dissemination of these sanitary advances.

All of these processes were applied at different scales from 1850 onwards for a century: territorial, social and individual.

The sanitation of the « insalubrious » region of the Double between 1850 and 1870, carried out by Doctors Piotay, Saint-Saud, Gaillardon and Guilbert, among others, considered all aspects of the problem: sanitary, infectious, agricultural and communications.

These councillors launched vast programmes to fight against the « bad nature of water »: water analysis and classification of fountains and ponds, encouragement to build wells with covers, filling in dirty fountains, drinking water conveyance by public pumps. This movement continued until 1930 and the arrival of running water in the homes of small towns.

As a result of the same hygienic concerns, the government’s assumption of responsibility for mental health led to the creation of a large asylum for the insane and the elderly on the site of the religious charterhouse of Vauclaire in 1919.

Illustrations :

– Photo of the Echourgnac monument erected to the benefactors of the Double, including Léonard Piotay for having tried to clean up the Double region ravaged by « fevers » in the 19th century by creating the Double’s agricultural association and bringing in the Trappist monks thanks to the sale of his estate in Biscay © Musée André Voulgre

– Postcard of the Carthusian monastery of Vauclaire, a new asylum for the insane and the elderly around 1920 © SHAP Collection, P. Pommarède collection.

– Portrait of Doctor François Viault, doctor of medicine and natural sciences, associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Bordeaux, who was a man of overflowing activity: scientist, doctor, politician, farmer, traveller, writer. This forgotten doubleaud studied and fought against the malarial fevers of the Double in the 19th century. © Maurice Biret

– Photo of the covered well with flywheel pump from the mid-19th century of the Mussidan hospice © Musée André Voulgre

– Photo of a public pump at the end of the 19th century in rue Saint Georges in Mussidan © Musée André Voulgre

– Photo of private toilets and wash-house on the banks of the Crempse in Mussidan © Musée André Voulgre

– Postcard of the monastery of the Trap of Our Lady of Good Hope in Echourgnac around 1900 © Collection Pomarède SHAP24.

– Quote from Aubert and Lapresté.