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    Managing skill, 1680–1730: domestic service and the forms of practical knowledge

    Stearn, Robert Edmund Chambury (2022) Managing skill, 1680–1730: domestic service and the forms of practical knowledge. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis is a study of how skill in the specific realm of service was understood in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain. It examines how the aptitudes that were elicited from employers and demanded of servants by domestic service were represented as instances of skill. It demonstrates that in the period 1680–1730, domestic service offered diversely-situated writers ways to think about skill as a component of antagonistic everyday social relations and ways to think about those relations as practice or activity. In doing so, it brings to light a significant thread in the history of skill and identifies hitherto overlooked locations in which discourses and practices of skill may be found. The thesis is divided into five chapters. The first explores how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century handbooks and visual art modelled the qualities of ideal servants. It considers what pleasures employers were afforded by representations and imitations of servants. Chapters two and three, focussing on the manuscript meditations and diaries of Anne, Lady Halkett and Sarah, Lady Cowper, respectively, each offer a case study of how a writer occupying a sometimes compromised position of authority within her household reflected upon skill and service through extensive, recursive life-writing. Chapters four and five return to represented servants in the context of the expansive imagined geographies of adventure fiction. This popular mode built narratives around the practical knowledge elicited from protagonists by situations of extremity and thus offered a space within which skill and service could be explored. Chapter four examines how, in Defoe’s fictional and didactic works, scenes of management link bodily and social dexterity to ideologies of government, while chapter five explores what can be learned about skill by studying the ways in which narrative and material forms were re-written, adapted, and extended.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 25 May 2022 15:33
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:35


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