Life Downstairs: British Servant Culture in Fact, Fiction, and Film

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A new Humanities to Go program by Ann McClellan                                                                       While servant narratives have been popular for centuries, there seems to be a resurging interest in these stories in recent decades. Many contemporary British and North American writers, filmmakers, and television executives have turned to master/servant relationships as their subject matter. Films like The Remains of the Day and Gosford Park garnered numerous Oscar nominations and substantial box office profits. PBS created such classics as Upstairs, Downstairs and Manor House, as well as the phenomenally successful Downton Abbey. Even mainstream American television has piloted its own versions of the British servant in shows as wide ranging as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to reality TV’s Supernanny. Ann McClellan explores the history behind the rise and fall of British servants and why Americans are so fascinated by their stories on page and screen.


This program is just one of the 450 Humanities to Go programs that bring 15,000-plus NH residents together in more than 150 local community settings to learn together on topics that challenge, enlighten, and engage. To learn more about hosting this or another program in your community, visit