Servant Life and Social Class in Edwardian England

Ref: C2419094

How accurate are recent televison portrayals of social class and 'life below stairs' in the Edwardian period? The course will examine the working lives of servants and the alternative employment opportunities open to them. The 'servant problem' of the period usually referred to the difficulty for employers of finding servants, but it could just as easily have referred to the hardships that many servants faced. Increasingly, employment in shops, department stores, offices and factories was offering an alternative to a life in service. And rising aspirations, increased leisure opportunities, demands for a widening of the franchise and advances in education were all part of the broader picture. The course will include a visit or a guided walk.

Course aim

To examine social class, employment and education in Britain in the early twentieth century through a study of domestic service.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • The course is for anyone with an enquiring mind and an interest in history

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify key features of the class structure in 1900
  • Describe servant life in the early 1900's
  • Make a judgement about recent film and television portrayals of servants
  • Draw conclusions about servant life then and now
  • Demonstrate research into individual interests

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Note making materials

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

Download full Course information sheet

Servant Life and Social Class in Edwardian England


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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