The English Domestic Servant in English History

Classic Pamphlet

Dorothy Marshall, last updated: 24th March 2014

Changing conditions

The history of domestic service in England has yet to be written. Hewers of wood and drawers of water there have always been, but historians have usually been little concerned with them. The material for their history is scattered and difficult to assess; even the word ‘servant' is not easy to define, and carried a wider meaning in the past than it does now. Women writing about domestic trouble are rarely impartial witnesses - and servants too, it may be hinted, are sometimes unreasonable. Yet the evidence is not too scrappy to prevent the drawing of a reasonably accurate picture of the general conditions of the English domestic servant in the past, and the investigation is well worth making. Too many persons have gained their livelihood in this way for the subject to be ignored by social historians.

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