Symposium: The Performance and Experience of Domestic Service

The Performance and Experience of Domestic Service

London Renaissance Seminar


Saturday 18th July 2015, 2pm-6pm

Room 538, Birkbeck, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX


 In early modern England, domestic conduct literature, legal treatises, and state-sanctioned homilies propagated the ideal of the home as a self-contained system of government; the loyalty of domestic servants was therefore of political significance. Performances of domestic service onstage explored early modern anxieties and fantasies concerning the interference, surveillance, and potential insubordination of the early modern servant, and the conflicts of loyalty and illicit knowledge that domestic service entailed. This half-day symposium brings together historians, literary scholars, and actors to explore the relationship between the experience of servants in early modern England, and the representation of servants onstage. Talks will be illustrated by performances of depositions from church court records and scenes from plays.

2pm Welcome


2.05pm Laura Gowing (King’s College London), ‘Performing Service: Stories from the London Church Courts’ (with performances of depositions)


3.10pm Coffee break


3.25pm Catherine Richardson (Kent), ‘Work and Leisure: Domestic Behaviour and the Quotidian Spaces of Service’ (with performances of depositions)


4.30pm Performances of scenes from domestic tragedies


4.45pm Drinks


5pm Roundtable discussion, with all speakers and actors


5.45pm Final remarks

This event is organised by Emma Whipday (Oxford); please email with any queries.

The London Renaissance Seminar meets at Birkbeck, University of London to discuss topics in the culture of the Renaissance. Anyone with an interest in the Renaissance is welcome to attend. London Renaissance Seminar contact; mailing list contact:

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