Household Predictors of the Presence of Life Cycle Servants in Orkney, Scotland, 1851-1901

Julia A. Jennings, Pennsylvania State University

In household formation systems that feature late age at marriage, such as those of preindustrial Northwest Europe, young people often leave the parental home, in which they were born and raised, to circulate among other households as servants before marriage. In preindustrial agrarian societies, such as 19th century Orkney, Scotland, a household’s food consumption needs and available labor force were largely determined by its age and sex composition. The presence of a life-cycle servant is likely to have consequences for both household production and consumption. By adding a servant, or sending a member out as a servant, a household can adjust its composition during changing economic conditions and times of labor shortage or surplus. This paper investigates which household-level factors, including household composition, predict whether a household is likely to take in a life-cycle servant and if these factors change over time, particularly as life cycle service becomes less common.

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Presented in Session 139: Historical Demography