(Review) Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson

Publication Date: April 1, 2010. First published in 2009.
Publisher: John Murray, Hachette UK Company.
Genre: Nonfiction, Country House Servants, England.
Pages: 384.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.


Up and Down Stairs is a history of the country house servant. All servants working in the great houses of England are explored and described. From the butler and housemaid, to the cooks in the kitchen, to those who worked in the gardens and the coachmen. The time period for the book begins with medieval history. The majority of the servants explored are from the late 1800s to the early 20th century. Personal stories are included.

My Thoughts:
I am making great progress in my TBR pile of books. I've had Up and Down Stairs for a few years waiting on me to read it.
Several elements led me to enjoy this book.

  • The book begins with known facts about servants from medieval times, Tudor history, and progressing to the Victorian time and 20th century. 
  • Detailed job descriptions for each servant.
  • Construction of the country houses.
  • The beloved nanny.
  • Short memoirs of those who worked as servants. This aspect gave a strong personal feel to a book that would have otherwise been academic. 
In medieval English the term 'servant' was apparently used to describe someone employed to provide labour for a family and given lodging within the household; thus it was their accommodation within the (often peripatetic) household that defined their role. Page 17.