In her book “Servants,” British writer Lucy Lethbridge researches the service industry in the 19th and 20th centuries using letters, memoirs, and diaries of servants. In her Fresh Air interview yesterday she explained how the British had a distinct attitude toward service:
[They believed that] it was a form of retaining social order, and I think you see it demonstrated very clearly in the British reluctance to take up new technologies in the home. They were far slower in taking up these technologies than families on the [European] continent, and certainly in America, because the idea of having people in the house, living with you, doing this work was so deeply rooted in the national psyche that it seemed vulgar to have a washing machine when you could employ two girls to do your washing.
Remember when Carson (the butler of Downton Abbey) was worried about the family getting a telephone? Seems fitting.
Photo of the staff of Downton Abbey, which returns on PBS this Sunday.