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Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain…

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to… (urspr publ 2013; utgåvan 2013)

av Lucy Lethbridge (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
312863,257 (3.85)25
A compassionate and discerning exploration of the complex relationship between the server, the served, and the world they lived in, Servants opens a window onto British society from the Edwardian period to the present.
Titel:Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times
Författare:Lucy Lethbridge (Författare)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2013), Edition: 1, 400 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times av Lucy Lethbridge (2013)

  1. 20
    En kortfattad historik över nästan allting i ditt hem av Bill Bryson (fannyprice)
    fannyprice: Bryson's discussion of the development of the home from a more open, collaborative space to a warren of special-purpose rooms as the concept of "privacy" became more important dovetails nicely with Lethbridge's discussion of the increasing physical separation between servants and the served in 18th and 19th century British homes.… (mer)
  2. 00
    Huset Longbourn: Stolthet och fördom - tjänstefolkets berättelse av Jo Baker (fannyprice)
  3. 00
    The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History av Katherine Ashenburg (fannyprice)

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Um wow this book has everything, detailed accounts of servants and those they served. Fascinating details on servants daily life, career track, as well as life both inside of service and outside of service. This equally covers the class system and distinctions both within society at large as well as society below stairs and behind green baize doors. Fascinating how the wars (WWI and WWII) change service. Service barely stabilizes, a very much smaller and less presumptuous affair than in Edwardian heyday. WW2 just kills whatever is left of that style of living, very much to the benefit of the rest of the country. The vast poverty that existed across the country, while the Aristocracy lived so unbelievably better was horrifying. To think poverty lived next door to extreme abundance like that. It's also fascinating how the war as well as fair taxation for the Aristocracy took the class down so quickly. The nostalgia for the wealthy of that time period puzzles me. I love Downton Abbey but the treatment of those below stairs is vastly and unrealistically idealized. The Aristocracy controlled massive amounts of wealth and largely ignored the suffering of the poor. Only taking advantage of them in service. Harrowing system. ( )
  LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
A fascinating account of the apotheosis and decline of household servants in Britain, 'Servants' takes the reader from the great houses of the Edwardian era, where excess was the norm, to the 21st century where the newly 'super rich' seek staff who can guide them through upper class manners even as they serve.
Lucy Lethbridge draws on a very wide range of sources, including contemporary fiction as well as first hand accounts from servants and employers. Perhaps the most interesting observation is the change in the relationship between the server and the served that occurred somewhere between the 17th century - when Pepys assumed that his servants would join in with family games - and the turn of the 20th when the grandest Edwardian families would expect their staff to turn to face the wall as they passed.
Extremely well researched, and arranged according to themes rather than strict chronology, this is social history delivered in an engaging and thoughtful manner. I enjoyed it enormously, and came away with a book list of source material for further reading. ( )
  Goldengrove | Aug 4, 2015 |
This book explores the culture of domestic service workers in Britain, from around the 1890s through the 1960s, and the families that employed them, and how the two world wars affected those occupations. The author details the work of cooks, parlor maids, footmen, scullery maids, butlers, etc, through interviews with former domestic workers, and through letters and diaries.

This was a very interesting read, and I really enjoyed it, though there were 2 or 3 chapters that to me, seemed a little too bogged down with repetitious details, but overall, this is a great book both for history lovers, and those that enjoy historical fiction and just want to learn more about the lives of servants. I really enjoyed the many interesting stories that the workers themselves had to tell about their employers. ( )
  mom2acat | Apr 8, 2015 |
I received a copy of this book from Goodreads giveaways. This is a very well-researched and comprehensive exploration of the domestic service industry from the 19th century until today, with a particular focus on the "golden age" of upstairs/downstairs relations that lasted until the early-mid 20th century. Fascinating read for those who are interested in this time and place in history. ( )
  dulcinea14 | Sep 18, 2014 |
An info-packed and engrossing social history that got a bit repetitious at times but was very worth reading.

Lethbridge draws on a range of biographies and memoirs of servants and those they served to show how the roles and lives of people in service in England changed from the late 19th century through the present day. While the book actually continues almost right up to the now, less space is devoted to the decades after the 1960s, when service in England dramatically changed with the influx of foreign workers and the growth of things like the au pair program. She also weaves in a history of things like cleanliness standards, the rise of the labor movement, domestic architecture, and the invention of labor-saving devices, as changes in these fields affected the lives of servants and were themselves affected by issues the supply and demand for servants.

I particularly enjoyed Lethbridge's discussions of the knotty relationships between the middle class or the new rich and their servants. As not having servants seems to have been a true class demarcation, people scrimped and scraped to afford this help, which often meant that servants in middle and lower-class homes saw their employers as stingy and barely more well-off than they were. Newly middle-class or wealthy people often did not know how to behave with their servants, which lead both sides to trespass and then reinforce social boundaries. The newly rich often could not discern all-important social distinctions and relied on their experienced servants to do the distinguishing for them. As middle class woman began to see leisure time and intellectual enrichment as a right, they often relied on the labor of poorer women to pursue these rights, oblivious to the fact that their servants might desire learning as well. Even class-conscious socialist women writers and activists fell victim to this bias, so entrenched was the feeling that some people were just meant to serve others.

I loved when Lethbridge looked at labor saving technologies or amenities like central heating and discussed the reluctance of Britons, particularly the wealthiest, to adopt these innovations. There were many reasons, including the fear that easing the burden on servants would make them lazy, the British upper class ethic that equated bodily discomfort with virtue (drafts build character), and the feeling that human hard work (as long as it was done by others) built character and was more effective. What this meant in practice was that servants had to keep pace with increasingly rigid standards of cleanliness with increasingly obsolete tools.

Lethbridge discusses the impact of WWI on servants and the served but highlights how in the 1920s and 1930s, many women who had left service or who had never been in service in were forced into the life by economic desperation or the belief that they should give up factory jobs to men returning from the war. This was something I hadn't really been aware of and explains how WWII was the true death knell for service as the dominant occupation in Britain.

Lethbridge also includes a fascinating section on the pre-WWII immigration of Germans and Austrians, mostly Jews, to Britain to fill growing shortages in service positions as a way of escaping the rising threats to them in Continental Europe. She looks at how these often wealthy and educated people found themselves considerably reduced in order to survive, the cultural shocks that a lot of Continentals experienced when confronted with the relative uncleanliness and technological backwardness of British homes, and the suspicion that many found themselves under when war did break out.

A great read, lots more I probably could include in this review. Highly recommended for anyone interested in service, England, social history, or gender history. ( )
7 rösta fannyprice | Mar 15, 2014 |
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For my parents and in memory of Blanche Hole
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In 1901, in a slim volume published to mark the accession of Edward VII, the author, identified only as 'One of His Majesty's Servants', sketched an idyllic picture of domestic life in the royal household, stressing the new monarch's domestic rectitude, and his homely side, hitherto unknown to his subjects: 'Few people outside the Royal Family and the circle that is honoured by the King's intimate friendship are aware of the high standard of domestic life that he has always set himself and observed.'
Preface: In 1901 the Earl of Derby, viewing the prospect of hosting the new King, Edward VII, and forty of the King's friends at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool, was overheard to say of the arrangements the visit would require : "that makes sixty extra servants and with the thirty-seven who live in, nothing could be simpler..."
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A compassionate and discerning exploration of the complex relationship between the server, the served, and the world they lived in, Servants opens a window onto British society from the Edwardian period to the present.

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