By Shannon Bennett, Student
Modules 4-8 of English: Occupations–Professions and Trades covers a wide variety of different occupations, laws and rules associated with them, plus lots of little bits of information that I think I digested. Once again, I stuffed information in my head and hoped that the sponge took it all in. In the future I see using this course as a great reference book when I track down English ancestors!
Instead of doing an overview of the modules, I thought I would pick out a couple of occupations that I found interesting. I hope you do too because the instructor did an excellent job of presenting the information on each of them. Needless to say, it was hard to whittle it down to just a few to talk about.
We know that from early days most women had responsibilities to the family and home. Yes, many did work side-by-side with their husbands or family members be it in stores or in the fields, but women’s work was defined by society.They were responsible for feeding and clothing the family in addition to any paid work they did outside of the home. Then with the Compulsory Education Acts of 1870 and 1880 women were better situated for different and better paying jobs, not just those of laundress, spinner, or cook.
Dr. Penelope Christensen tells us that in the 1851 census, “servant” was the second most common occupation, after agricultural laborer, in England. I was enthralled reading about the division of servants in a household (no, I have not watched Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey, sorry) and how they were managed.
Clock and Watch Making
Do you know the original difference between a clock and a watch? I didn’t! Originally a watch was defined as an object that showed the time. A clock on the other hand announced the time by striking a bell or another mechanism. When you think about it, it makes sense doesn’t it?
Clock and watch makers fell under the horology trade located mainly in Clerkenwell within London. There were other makers who set-up shops in towns and cities that were important market towns which catered to the gentry class. I thought it was interesting to note that when clocks were first manufactured they fell under the Blacksmiths’ Company. Then when smaller clocks began to be produced they fell under the umbrella of locksmiths. It wasn’t until 1631 that clock and watch makers created their own company.
Okay, now this had my head going in loops. Reading this section reminded me that I could not look at the past through modern eyes. Dr. Christensen writes “during the 16th-18th centuries the term profession was used to denote any occupation by which one earned a living.” Holy moly, that is not what I think of as “professional,” but then I have that darn modern idea of doctor, lawyer, businessman in my head.
This category of occupations did cover a number of what I would think of as professionals such as accountants, civil offices, medical trades, those in the law, and education. However, I was intrigued by the listing of unusual ones like: hangman, spy, and circus performer.
Needless to say there are a plethora of places to look, read, and investigate when it comes to occupations. Most can be traced through license applications, when they sat for exams, or even in trade publications. If you have a professional in your family you may need to research not only in private papers but also at local repositories. Looks like I may take a trip to England if that happens!
Well, off to take my exam. See you online!