For the aristocracy in Britain and Ireland, country house living was dependent upon the labors of men and women who performed innumerable chores involving...

For the aristocracy in Britain and Ireland, country house living was dependent upon the labors of men and women who performed innumerable chores involving cooking, cleaning, and the basic operation of the household. In the 18th century, however, the Industrial Revolution began to change this by introducing new devices and systems that simplified a wide range of duties. In Technology in the Country House (Historic England Publishing, 2016; distributed in the U.S. by University of Chicago Press) Marilyn Palmer and Ian West detail the extensive range of innovations adopted by country house owners from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries and their impact on the operations of their homes and estates. As West explains in this podcast, though many of these innovations were labor-saving devices, often they required not fewer servants, but ones trained in the new tasks of how to operate and maintain them. Their introduction was often undertaken by owners out of a personal interest in the innovations of the age, or who adopted them because of their fashionability–motives which, as West explains, provide useful examples of how technology is introduced into society generally both then and today.

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