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Servants of the painter William Hogarth around 1750

The servants (regionally also “the people ”) denotes the servants of a landlord or landlord who are obliged to perform domestic work (deputate servants ) or hired (household servants ) . The term has common Germanic roots and came into the German language via Old High German gisind , which meant " follower ". The Longobard gasindius and the Anglo-Saxon gesi was , which both also referred to followers, and the Dutch word gezin ( family ) are related.


Glance into the living and sleeping area of ​​a servant's apartment in the Umstadt Museum Gruberhof

A distinction was made between unmarried household servants with wages and meals from married deputate servants with compensation in kind , an allocated land area and sometimes their own apartment or servants' house . A distinction was also made between house servants and court servants , depending on whether domestic or agricultural services were performed. Court servants were also called servants in high aristocratic houses.

In the 19th century, rural servants were generally young and unmarried. Serving the servants usually began at the age of twelve, often earlier. Servant or maid who married were as, granny or Inwohner sometimes stay on the farm, sometimes they had to find another farm. Farm servants were subordinate to the farmer and the farmer's wife and were - due to their mostly young age - treated like their own offspring. Especially since the farmhouses had an open structure and hardly any private sphere, there was no demarcation between the biological family of the farmer and the servants - often unrelated to the farmer.

A servant contract, which was usually concluded orally, but was nevertheless binding, established the servant relationship. The payment of a cash by the employer confirmed the contract. The contract obliged the servants to do all domestic work ordered by the employer. As soon as the servants were able to establish their own household after marriage, the employment relationship changed from household servants with the apartment in or on the employer's house to deputate servants with an apartment located on the leased property.

The employers were obliged to grant the servant wages and food according to local customs and to only require him to do work that was legally permitted and not hazardous to health, not to abuse them in any way, to compensate them for damage they suffered in the service, as well as the costs for incurred in the service To bear diseases.

In the 19th century, in most German states and cities, there were special servants' ordinances , which stipulated that rabble people had to keep records of testimonies that had to be deposited with the police . In these servants' books the employers entered a certificate for the outgoing servants.


The derived, strongly derogatory word rabble , on the other hand, in modern parlance refers to people to whom the speaker sees himself morally and / or in the social order and who, from the speaker's point of view, are considered to be uncultivated , or asocial , possibly also criminal behavior. It is therefore used for a wide variety of people, from people without a permanent address, the unemployed and people without a regular income to people who do not meet the social target because of poverty . Terms with a similar meaning are pack , baggage , rabble and rubbish .

See also


  • Ferdinand Buomberger : Population and property statistics of the city and landscape of Freiburg (in the Uechtland) around the middle of the 15th century. Freiburg (Switzerland) 1900 (Freiburg (Switzerland), Univ., Diss., 1900), (Also in: Journal for Swiss Statistics. 36, 1900, ZDB -ID 220006-5 , pp. 205ff.).
  • Liliane Mottu-Weber: Les femmes dans la vie économique de Genève. In: Bulletin de la Société d'histoire et d'archéologie de Genève. 16, 1979, ISSN  1017-849X , pp. 381-401.
  • Thomas Vormbaum: Politics and public rights in the 19th century. (Mainly in Prussia 1810–1918) (= writings on legal history 21). Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-04755-9 (also: Münster, Univ., Philos. Fak., Diss., 1979).
  • Käthe Mittelhäuser: Residents in southern Lower Saxony. In: Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte 116 (1980), pp. 235–278.
  • Jean-Pierre Gutton: Domestiques et serviteurs dans la France de l'Ancien Régime. Aubier Montaigne, Paris 1981, ISBN 2-7007-0235-2 .
  • Michael Mitterauer : Family and work organization in urban societies of the late Middle Ages and early modern times. In: Alfred Haverkamp (Hrsg.): House and Family in the Late Medieval City ( City Research. Series A: Representations. Vol. 18). Böhlau, Cologne et al. 1984, ISBN 3-412-00284-4 , pp. 1–36.
  • Yvonne Pesenti: Profession: worker. Social situation and trade union organization of employed women from the lower class in Switzerland, 1890–1914. Chronos, Zurich 1988, ISBN 3-905278-28-6 (also: Zurich, Univ., Diss., 1987).

Web links

Wiktionary: servants  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. M. Philippa, F. Debrabandere, A. Quak, T. Schoonheim en N. van der Sijs: Etymologische Woordenboek van het Nederlands, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2015, ISBN 9789053567463 .
  2. Heidi Rosenbaum: Forms of the family . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-518-07974-3 , pp. 65 . ; John E. Knodel: Two and a Half Centuries of Demographic History in a Bavarian Village (Anhausen) . Population Studies, Volume 24, 1980, pp. 67f, 81, 85, 102f, 106ff
  3. Geschmeiß, das. In: Adelung, grammatical-critical dictionary of the high German dialect. Volume 2. Leipzig 1796, p. 615.
  4. Geschmeiß, das. In: .