“Not so much as a loin-cloth”

The World Naked bike ride comes to Cambridge for the third time on Saturday and this prompted me to think about how differing attitudes to nudity across Europe would be reflected in the University Library’s collections. Further research revealed that our holdings are reasonably strong in English, French and German but almost non-existent in other languages. I think this in itself is an indication of the places where naturist movements have been more prevalent or of more interest. Indeed it was Germany and France that led the way in the early 20th century with organised nudist groups.

In Germany, naturism is still referred to as FKK, short for Freikörperkultur, a movement led by Adolf Koch during the 1920s and 1930s. Nacktheit und Kultur: Adolf Koch und die proletarische Freikörperkultur (C207.c.1308) by Andrey Georgieff and Freikörperkultur und Lebenswelt: Studien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Freikörperkultur in Deutschland (416.d.99.13) tell more of this story. For an English language analysis see Naked Germany: health, race and the nation (570:35.c.200.52) by Chad Ross. During the East German regime FKK was particularly popular, perhaps as a way of displaying individuality in a somewhat restrictive State, and differences between the former East and West are still noticeable today. Continue reading