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Commodity culture: tropical health and hygiene in the British Empire

Johnson, R. (2008) Commodity culture: tropical health and hygiene in the British Empire. Endeavour, 32 (2). pp. 70-74. ISSN 0160-9327

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Before heading to a 'tropical' region of the Empire, British men and women spent considerable time and effort gathering outfit believed essential for their impending trip. Ordinary items such as soap, clothing, foodstuffs and bedding became transformed into potentially life-saving items that required the fastidious attention of any would-be traveller. Everyone from scientists and physicians to missionaries and administrators was bombarded by relentless advertising and abundant advice about the outfit needed to preserve health in a tropical climate. A closer look at this marketing exercise reveals much about the way people thought about tropical people, places, health and hygiene and how scientific and commercial influences shaped this Imperial commodity culture.