A brief history of the rise of naturism

History of naturism and nudism

Researchers are unable to say unequivocally when the concept of naturism became so popular. The desire to be closer to nature, cut off from top-down patterns, and fight against taboos has always been in people, therefore it is difficult to talk about naturism as some new, unprecedented phenomenon.

Ancient roots 

Some argue that the real foundations of social nudism were established in ancient Egypt under the pharaoh Akhen-Aten (1385-1353 BC). It was during these times that students in Greece trained in the nude and most of the athletes played naked, including the early Olympic Games in Greece. This lead to the assumption, that the Greeks and Romans lived in a clothing-optional society. This nudist utopia of accepting a society ended in 393 when the Christian emperor banned the Olympics because he believed they were pagan in nature. 

Usage of the term 

The term “naturism” itself was created by Jean Baptiste Luc Planchon in 1778 and used in his book on this subject. Other sources claim the first recorded use of the word naturism happened in 1891 in India, where the British had opened a club called “The Fellowship of the Naked Trust” for the British colonists to practice social nudity. Their motto was Vincat Natura (Let Nature Win). It wasn’t until the early 20th century when that ideology became a subject of science, thanks to the Germans. Naturism became a more widespread phenomenon in the 1920s especially in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries, and spread to the United States where it became established in the 1930s. By 1951, the various national federations united to form the International Naturist Federation. The term “naturism”, understood at the time as “natural lifestyle”, is now defined much more broadly.

Current meaning 

During the XIV Congress of the International Naturist Federation held at Agde in France, in 1974 naturism has been defined as “a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.” 

The INF’s announcement led to an understanding that naturism is a way of living in harmony with the surrounding nature, which is best expressed through nudity and by respecting natural laws and other views.

A brief history of the rise of naturism

Naturism in Europe and beyond – where can you meet naturists?

Naturism is not a fad and does not apply to any specific age group. This philosophy of life has been around for many years, so it’s no wonder that its followers can be found all over the world. Of course, most places intended for naturists are in the countries of Western Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. Interestingly, in the last few decades, naturism has become quite common among tourists going to Croatia for vacation. In most countries, including Ireland, you can find specially separated beaches for naturists, swimming pools, and saunas.

In 1963 the Irish Naturist Association (INA) was founded and has been operating ever since with more and more members joining each year. Naturist federations are making naturism more acceptable in their countries and contemporary societies enabling a gradual change of mentality on the topic.

A list of social nudity organizations is available here.

Find out more about naturism and nudism in our articles on the topic here.

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