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December 15 , 2008

What the Butler Saw

Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem


'A book which goes on a special shelf in my library.' P.G. Wodehouse

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What the Butler Saw (1962) is one of E.S. Turner's most pertinent and illuminating 'social histories', an exploration of the 'upstairs/downstairs' relationship across three centuries of English life. Drawing on literature, contemporary accounts and household manuals, Turner describes in fascinating detail how it came to be that the upper classes felt a need for an ever larger household staff, engaged in every imaginable form of drudgery; and, accordingly, how those in service - from high to low, butler to footman, housemaid to au pair - had to give satisfaction to their masters and mistresses while also, on occasions, contending with physical blows, tantrums, and (in the cases of some unfortunate servant girls) threats to their virtue.

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