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Title: 'Crossing the Channel to seek their future' : foreign female domestic servants in London, 1881-1939
Author: Robinson, Olivia
ISNI:       0000 0003 6637 8703
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis centres on international women migrants in London: how they crossed borders, navigated foreign spaces and experienced social and behavioural boundaries. Their stories are told through the lens of their economic status as domestic servants, by far the largest occupation absorbing women of all nationalities in London at this time. Accessing accounts of servant experiences has traditionally been perceived as challenging, yet as ‘aliens’ the women become more visible, both in society and in the records. What were the implications and consequences (positive or otherwise) of being foreign, female and employed in service during the period 1881–1939? And to what extent were they able to advantage of their otherness? The thesis draws on an historical migration approach proposed by Pooley and Whyte in which both structural and individual evidence is bound together to offer new insights into both the system and the individuals it shaped. Using unique quantitative and qualitative sources permits an entirely new understanding of the female migrant experience, challenging our view of the male-only pioneering migrant, of foreign servants as luxury accessories and servants as young people engaged for short periods in a lifecycle occupation. In a bid to reverse the tendency in scholarship to represent female migrant labour as ‘victim’, the thesis incorporates servants’ experiences before, during and after domestic employment, that links London sculleries and suburban parlours with transnational migration.
Supervisor: Humphries, Katherine Jane Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: European history ; Migration history ; Social & economic history