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Domestic service in London, 1660-1750 : gender, life cycle, work and household relations

Young people flooded into the capital in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and for many their experiences were moulded by working and living in others' households. As metropolitan life-cycle service, the occupation of domestic service provided them with a means of maintaining themselves by providing access to remuneration amid the fluctuating metropolitan economy, but it also gave them shelter in a city most were experiencing as migrants. The historiography of this subject has been stymied by the concentration, often thanks to limited record availability, of an older generation of scholars on the writings and material evidence of elite employers. As a consequence, a picture has been painted of an occupation dominated by the male liveiy to the resident nobility and gentry, mirroring in miniature the polarised social relations allegedly found in London as a whole. This thesis has sought to revise the history of domestic service by exploring a wider range of sources, particularly the words of contemporary servants themselves found in the church court depositions, in order to examine the nature of the service experienced by most. Servants largely worked in the households of the middling sort, whose numbers were expanding in this period, and these households were overwhelmingly employers of female domestic servants. The gendered experience of service is one of the thesis's central themes: levels of remuneration, nature of work tasks, opportunities for a career in service, relationships with employers, all differed significantly between male and female servants. Examining the work servants did in London households, a pattern emerges of three categories of task - housewifery, luxurious consumption and 'production' - which demonstrated distinct differences according to household size and function, and in household relations, in which very real work generated social as well as economic value within a moral economy of service.
Date January 1996
CreatorsMeldrum, Timothy
PublisherLondon School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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