‘The Fiddling Footman’: The Social History of Music-Making among English and Welsh Servants in the Long Eighteenth Century

Micah Anne Neale

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis investigates domestic servants’ engagement with music, both as musicians and auditors, in England, Wales and Scotland, from 1690 to 1795. The methodological approaches are largely drawn from social history and cultural history, focusing on investigation of servants’ lived experiences of music. This involves a variety of sources, including country house and parish archives detailing servants’ lives, court records and published books which describe music-making from servants’ perspectives, and notated vernacular music in print and manuscripts. Two case study microhistories, one of Erddig in Wales and one of the parish of St. Clement Danes, provide a focus for this archival research, and emphasise the importance of space and place to music-making. Music-making is seen to be a social technology and (in Lefebvre’s terms) a spatial practice, in which space and status are generated, broken down, reconstituted or reinterpreted. The thesis will explore how music functioned in these ways for domestic servants, and what restrictions they faced in hearing and performing music. For instance, the penultimate chapter considers ballad singing and vernacular fiddling as technologies to exert control over space, and how domestic servants experienced and understood these musical practices. Considering music in this relational manner also illuminates its role as a tool to produce gender capital. The concept of gender as a form of capital, a transactable commodity, is elucidated in the final chapter (as a framework useful for the specific historical moment of eighteenth-century Britain): both domestic service and musical performance, considered in this framework, become transactions of power within a profoundly unequal economy of gender.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rose, Stephen, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 10 Apr 2022

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