It is seemingly unfair that those at the bottom of the social ladder are apparently almost forgotten when searching through records...the Hatters and the Ag Labs and the Bakers...the girls who made straw bonnets and men who wove wool into cloth. Without them the upper classes would have gone hungry, hatless and not owned thick woollen coats to keep them warm.
Then have a think about today's society...when you buy a punnet of strawberries to eat for your tea they were likely picked by an immigrant worker who was paid the absolute basic wage...go into a chainstore and get half a dozen cheap t-shirts for the summer...sewn by Chinese in factories with no health and safety rules and working a twelve hour day for extremely low wages...and so on and so on. There are dozens of examples of the possessions we buy and the food we eat which is produced by people who are little removed from a life of slavery.
We even have to have Fair Trade goods for heavens sakes...as though the thought of 'being fair' to the producers of our chocolate or coffee is something novel...
The lower classes...and I say that without even a vague sense of guilt because there is no other way to describe those who labour for the upper classes...the lower classes...like poverty...have always been with us from the serfs of the Early Middle Ages to the Husbandmen of the 1600's to the Victorian children who worked in cotton mills to the strawberry pickers of 2013.
Remove those social classes and you are left with a form of Communism...rebel against the constrains of Communism and you'll find yourself removed from society and sent to a re-education camp...
It is a bit sad to have the Earl of Huntingdon mentioned in history books...to read his name and his lineage in countless documents...to know to the day when he was killed and where his grave lies, when one of his kitchen servants has been totally forgotten and we'll never find her name or the day of her birth or the county or country she came from...we can imagine she'd have probably married one of the farming servants and had a couple of children before she died from plague or smallpox or in childbirth...but it is the way of our society that we need to remember her in our thoughts rather than in a record available on-line.
There is a particular photograph which is included in every glossy book about Ireland...the sort carefully arranged on shelves to attract the tourist eye...it is of a family who have just been evicted by their landlord in the 1880's...that photo crops up over and over again. But no-one knows who they were. No-one knows their names. It is simply titled...A Family Evicted from Their Cabin...we don't even know the circumstances of their eviction...they might have been a week behind with the rent or maybe the father had been accused of some wrong-doing...but they are there in glossy coffee-table books and in small pamphlets and even on cards you can buy in the musuem.
It is hardly fair that my Mothers brother, Samuel, was buried by the local council because no-one wanted his remains and none of the Irish family seemed to have any idea of how he spent his life...but Tony...the War hero...is mentioned endlessly in books and War dispatches and newspapers...Google his name and you'll be deluged with information...but it is the way we are. We record a War hero but we ignore a man who drank himself to death and had no money for a funeral...we remember those who crop up in history books...because they are under our noses so to speak...but we don't recall the girl who was a house servant at the age of twelve or the Chinese girl who made those t-shirts we bought so cheaply.
When we write or speak of those serving girls or the ones who worked hard to spin linen cloth or who make the cheap clothes which attract us...then they aren't forgotten...if, while I'm marvelling over the fact that a distant relative is written about in history books I own, I also remember his vast household of serfs and servants...then those people are not forgotten either.
Society has never been 'fair'...there are always those who quietly fade away and those who are remembered.