By Peter Laslett
Publication by way of Laslett, Peter
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Extra resources for The World We Have Lost: Further Explored
Not all households took part in the interchange all the time. At any moment a quarter or a third of the households of a community would contain servants, and a similar proportion would have children absent from home and in service. The households which remained would at that point in time be unaffected by the system of service, but many of them, perhaps most, would at other stages of their development either yield up or take in servants. This is the sense in which it could be said that service was practically a universal 16 The World We Have Lost characteristic of pre-industrial English society.
3. ’ 4. ’ We shall concern ourselves in due course with the relationship between these four divisions. Our present interest is in Smith’s detailed description of the lowest of them. These are his words: The fourth sort or class amongst us is of those which the old Romans called capite sensu proletarii or operarii, day labourers, poor husbandmen, yea merchants or retailers which have no free land, copyholders, and all artificers, as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, brickmakers, brick-layers, etc.
Let us emphasize again the scale of life in the working family of the London baker. Few persons in the old world ever found themselves in groups larger than family groups, and there were not many families of more than a dozen members in any locality. But at the very top of the society family households could be huge, even larger than in parts of the world where the generations often lived together. Apart from the royal court and the establishments of the nobility, lay and spiritual, a resident gentleman like Sir Richard Newdigate, Baronet, could have dozens of people around him.
The World We Have Lost: Further Explored by Peter Laslett