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Title: Children in domestic service, c.1760-1830
Author: Dyer, Jenifer Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 6711
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2016
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Domestic service was a major source of employment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but has only in recent years been the subject of serious historical research. Child servants represented a rather small cohort of this sector but formed a significant section of the total child labour force. This thesis gives new attention to these youngest household workers and a ‘voice’ to many children hitherto ‘hidden from history.’ Recent studies of children working in factories have challenged many assumptions about child workers but indicate that they were, in general, favoured by employers because they were cheap, tractable and could be adapted to techniques and methods of organisation which adults resisted. This study shows that the decision to take a child into employment in domestic service was a more complex and individual matter. Cheapness and ease of exploitation had attractions for some masters, but the need for companionship or conveying a particular household image could also influence decisions. Previous studies have provided useful insights into the economic and cultural circumstances which pushed children into work at an early age. This investigation takes a different stance by looking at the considerations which the employer or master took into account when considering whether or not to employ a child. In some cases child servants were not welcome in households and were at times taken on out of duty or under duress. The thesis also explores the quality of the children’s lives by focusing on the commitments made in the indenture, or similar private arrangements, and the success with which these agreements were fulfilled. The importance of the indenture can be seen when we consider other eventualities affecting child servants (e.g. punishment, sickness, free time) where no commitment was made and much uncertainty remained. Finally, a closer study of the apprenticeship policy of two eighteenth-century charities (1775- 1804) provides a wider basis for a comparison of the lives of children placed in domestic service by the poor law and private agreements.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available