Employing numerous real-house and literary examples, Lethbridge lends poignancy to the master-servant dynamic.




A surprisingly substantive, elucidating social study of the British class system.

London journalist Lethbridge emphasizes numerous important facets of the master-servant relationship that kept the great houses of Britain running smoothly until their apogee in the Edwardian era: namely, that the relationship represented by its orderliness and rigidity the very symbol of English imperialism. Indeed, even the middle classes enriched by the Industrial Revolution employed their coterie of servants, underscoring the master-servant bond as what judge Sir William Blackstone termed in 1765 the “first of the three ‘great relationships of private life’ ” (the others being spousal and filial). Like the caste system of India, to which the British system glommed effortlessly, the army of domestic servants in England was highly stratified, divided into “niche skills.” The pay was minimal, but the estate offered safety, room and board. The jobs were divided between indoor and outdoor servants and between those at the top, such as the butler and housekeeper, and those at the bottom, the charwoman and scullery maid. They were further delineated by height and appearance (the taller ones received higher-paying, front-of-the-house jobs). The number of people working as domestic servants rivaled the number of agricultural workers up until the turn of the century, and yet this huge body of workers was “largely excluded from the industrial unrest that rocked the first ten years of the 20th century…scorned by their working-class peers as the most despised representatives of class betrayal.” Considered flunkies, “scivvies” and toadies by the urban factory workers, the career domestics tended to be conservative in their views, nostalgic even for the “sacred trust” established between patron and servant. The author explores how the forces of war, modern technology and feminist consciousness eventually helped blow the relationship apart.

Employing numerous real-house and literary examples, Lethbridge lends poignancy to the master-servant dynamic.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-24109-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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