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Contested authority: Master and servant in Copenhagen and Christiania, 1750-1850

Dates:
  • Mon 16 Dec 2013 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2013-12-16 15:00 2013-12-16 17:00 Europe/Paris Contested authority: Master and servant in Copenhagen and Christiania, 1750-1850

This thesis investigates the relationship between masters and domestic servants in Copenhagen and Christiania between 1750 and 1850. Living and working together, their relationship was structured around a contract between two individuals and at the same time specific norms dictating the master’s responsibility for his servant’s moral and physical well-being. In turn, the servant was instructed to be deferential and respectful. I examine how the relationship between master and servant was legitimized, enforced and contested in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a time of economic, political and societal change.
In the thesis, I argue that the master-servant relationship was transformed during the period 1750 to 1850. Hiring contracts became shorter, preoccupation with family life cast servants as outsiders and an increasing separation of work and home life relegated them to the realm of what came to be categorized as private, while they still continued to be contracted labour. At the same time, servants in Copenhagen and Christiania were waged workers throughout the period 1750 to 1850, and there seem to have been little indication that either masters, mistresses or the servants themselves viewed the servants as integrated members of the family. Yet, throughout the century between 1750 and 1850 there was a continued emphasis on the servant’s subordination, and language that stressed their subjugated status in the household persisted in law, in civil lawsuits between masters and servants and in fiction and prose on domestic service throughout the period 1750 to 1850. But while the fact that servants were subordinate members of a household subject to the authority of the master as well as hired help often working on contracts of six months or less was not perceived as contradictory in 1750, it came to be so by 1850. By the late eighteenth century legal minds began to struggle with whether legislation on the master-servant relationship should be classified as a contractual law or family law. It became a problem of taxonomy; a problem that continued to manifest itself during the nineteenth century when work and family came to be perceived as increasingly separate.

Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

This thesis investigates the relationship between masters and domestic servants in Copenhagen and Christiania between 1750 and 1850. Living and working together, their relationship was structured around a contract between two individuals and at the same time specific norms dictating the master’s responsibility for his servant’s moral and physical well-being. In turn, the servant was instructed to be deferential and respectful. I examine how the relationship between master and servant was legitimized, enforced and contested in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a time of economic, political and societal change.
In the thesis, I argue that the master-servant relationship was transformed during the period 1750 to 1850. Hiring contracts became shorter, preoccupation with family life cast servants as outsiders and an increasing separation of work and home life relegated them to the realm of what came to be categorized as private, while they still continued to be contracted labour. At the same time, servants in Copenhagen and Christiania were waged workers throughout the period 1750 to 1850, and there seem to have been little indication that either masters, mistresses or the servants themselves viewed the servants as integrated members of the family. Yet, throughout the century between 1750 and 1850 there was a continued emphasis on the servant’s subordination, and language that stressed their subjugated status in the household persisted in law, in civil lawsuits between masters and servants and in fiction and prose on domestic service throughout the period 1750 to 1850. But while the fact that servants were subordinate members of a household subject to the authority of the master as well as hired help often working on contracts of six months or less was not perceived as contradictory in 1750, it came to be so by 1850. By the late eighteenth century legal minds began to struggle with whether legislation on the master-servant relationship should be classified as a contractual law or family law. It became a problem of taxonomy; a problem that continued to manifest itself during the nineteenth century when work and family came to be perceived as increasingly separate.


Location:
Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Supervisor:
Prof. Bartolomé Yun Casalilla (EUI and Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla)

Contact:
Kathy Wolf Fabiani - Send a mail

Examiner:
Prof. Ida Bull (NTNU Norway)
Prof. Luca Molà (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Prof. Hilde Sandvik (University of Oslo)

Defendant:
Hanne Østhus (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
 

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