Lucy Lethbridge

Class Myths

Master and Servant: Love and Labour in the English Industrial Age


Cambridge University Press 262pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and at the turn of the twentieth, more women were employed in domestic service than in any other area. Yet the lives of servants present a difficulty for social historians, because they rarely left written records; their presence in households is more often indicated by their inclusion on a census, in household accounts, or even complaining letters written by a mistress to her friends. The question of their relationship with their employers is awkward too – in some cases it was abusive, in others it was a deeply affectionate union of mutual dependency. Eluding generalisations or even definitions, they have slipped through the cracks of modern historical narratives. As Carolyn Steedman, in this fascinating book, puts it: ‘they are simply not already in the story that social historians are telling’.

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