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Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719597307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719597305
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This is Gosford Park as non-fiction, and utterly fascinating Times Literary Supplement 'Entertaining saga of the class divide' The Daily Express 'Intimate and absorbing study' The Sunday Times Architectural historian Masson brings alive the symbiotic relationship between the houses, their owners, and the workers. Financial Times 'Musson is excellent on the changing face of service in the twentieth century' Spectator 'Personal anecdotes bring this well-researched book to life' Mail on Sunday 'A brilliantly readable book full of human history and entertaining anecdotes' Lancashire Evening Post 'He retells the story at a cracking pace... we are reminded that all kinds of likely lads, including Chaucer, started out as paper pushers and cup bearers' Guardian 'Packed with quotes from memoirs and letters, as well as first hand accounts, a fascinating social history' BBC Who Do You Think You Are Magazine 'An ideal read' Field Magazine

About the Author

Jeremy Musson is an architectural historian and has been architectural editor of Country Life for the past 10 years. His other titles include The English Manor House and How to Read a Country House.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jill on November 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good, compact yet quite detailed history of servants in the English country house, organized by century. The author taps into a number of primary sources, such as diaries and household account books, letters, and period servants' manuals (e.g., Hannah Glasse's 1761 The Servants Directory, Improved). He also has information on black slaves and servants, in the chapter on the 18th century; this is the time period I was most interested in, and pleased with the level of detail given for this century. The 19th century chapter does cover some part of the early years (Regency era), which is well done if all too brief. Victorian and Edwardian eras are covered in some depth, as are the 1920s-30s. I only skimmed the later chapter that covers the second half of the 20th century. The illustrations are completely fascinating - I was amazed by how many servants were actually featured into portraits. It's very well footnoted and the bibliography is lengthy and useful for doing further research. I thought it far superior to Sambrook's "Keeping Their Place," which I found disappointing and not as detailed or as well sourced. On a final note, I was amused to note that the cover of my copy (John Murray, 2009 edition) depicts the servants' bells that were authentically recreated for the "Manor House" TV series - you can see the names "Lady Olliff-Cooper" and "Sir John," the "lord and lady of the manor" for that program.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
From Jane Austen's _Pride and Prejudice_ to Robert Altman's _Gosford Park_, the English country house plays a role in the imagination as it has in English society and history. It is a role that has changed greatly over the centuries, as has the role of the servants who ran the places. As Jeremy Musson describes in _Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant_ (John Murray), we seldom hear the word "servant" anymore, but "service" was what everyone used to do through the sixteenth century. Lords served the king, children served parents or went to the households of their parents' contemporaries to serve. A carryover from the time is the closing of a letter, "Your obedient servant." In medieval English, "servant" was used to mean someone who labored for a family and was lodged within its home. But "family" meant something else at the time, too, and covered everyone who lived in a household, taking on the meaning of mere kin during the eighteenth century. Such service signifies a particularly intimate relationship, often as fraught with difficulties as any family tie but often giving sustenance in both directions. The Earl of Northumberland wrote four hundred years ago, "And in this I must truly testify for servants out of experience, that in all my fortunes good and bade, I have found them more reasonable than wyfe, brothers or friends." Musson gives plenty of instances where the relationship did not go so well as that, but still the contributions of servants to the country houses through the centuries were an essential part of British history, and this is a lively and important volume to understand them and their places.

One of the important changes over the centuries was the increasing participation of women as servants.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By hmf22 on June 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Up and Down Stairs is an absorbing, well-illustrated account of domestic service in English country houses from the Middle Ages to the present. Jeremy Musson draws extensively on primary sources, including servants' letters, diaries, and oral accounts, similar testimony from servants' employers, guides to household management, and drawings and photographs. I found Musson's treatment of how household structure and servants' roles changed from the Middle Ages up to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries particularly illuminating. His treatment of domestic service in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is anecdotal and rather soft-edged. He devotes as much space to discussing servants who married their masters as he does to discussing servants' vulnerability to physical and sexual abuse; this struck me as a little unrealistic. In general, the book is not quite as analytical as I hoped it would be. It contains a wealth of information, though, and it is evocative and fun to read. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meredith Allard on June 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're a Downton Abbey fan curious about the real lives of the downstairs folks, or if you're interested in servants' lives simply because it's a fascinating subject in its own right, Up and Down Stairs by Jeremy Musson is a good place to start. Musson begins his detailed description of the life of servants in the later Middle Ages to the end of the sixteenth century, working his way through the centuries to the post World War II years. He brings to light the beginning of those features of servant life Downton fans know most about--the back stairs, the Servant's Hall, and the green baize door.

Musson starts with Doctor Johnson's definition of servant: "One who attends another, and acts at his command--the correlative of master." Musson then points out that we don't use the word servant any more, true enough since the word has taken on a negative connotation. As Musson takes us through the centuries, we can see how the servants' role evolved. Musson draws on primary sources such as letters from both servants and masters, newspaper articles, and how-to manuals written during the period, and his book is a wealth of information.

In Up and Down Stairs Musson doesn't form conclusions about what it all meant for the servants, for their masters, or for anyone else. He's not trying to convince us of anything.
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