August 9, 2010 7:10 am

A Brief History of Nakedness

 

A Brief History of Nakedness, By Philip Carr-Gomm, Reaktion Books RRP£19.95, 286 pages

Philip Carr-Gomm offers not simply the brief history his title claims, but an analysis of the use of nudity as a marketing tool with which to win hearts and minds.

He entertainingly charts how protesters and politicians have employed nudity’s shock value to spotlight their causes; how religious and spiritual movements have invested their beliefs with divine veracity by practising in a “skyclad” state that brings them closer to nature and exphasises that man is “made in God’s image”; and how in recent decades removing one’s clothes in public has become less about sin and more about fun, purity and, through films such as The Full Monty and Calendar Girls, even heroism.

It is difficult not to wonder, however, why Carr-Gomm, having completed an accessible and often amusing examination of nudity’s associations with authority, authenticity and honesty, uses an image of himself fully clad on the dust jacket.

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