Sauna and bathing in global history

Recently, at a conference, I presented on the history of Finnish folk medicine. After the talk, I got a question from the audience about the peculiarities of folk healing in Finland. Having spent a number of years studying African medical systems, I could only point to the similarities between Finnish and African folk remedies – the use of cupping horns, herbalism, and bone setting. However, someone suggested that sauna perhaps presents a Finnish specialty, and many in the audience seemed to accept this idea. I immediately started thinking about Amerindian sweat lodges and Turkish hammams. Steam cabinets were also used in precolonial Africa as a standard treatment for syphilis, as documented by Rømer on the Gold Coast in the mid-eighteenth century. In this blog post, I want to briefly touch upon the global history of sauna and bathing, which remains to be written in English. Continue reading “Sauna and bathing in global history”