Civil Servants In 1900 Had A Cushy Work Schedule

Listen to this description of the lives of British civil servants at the turn of the last century (first decade of the 1900s, pre-World War I).1

Civil servants at the India Office were required to work from 11am to 5pm on weekdays and from 11am to 1pm on Saturdays, with an hour for lunch and two months’ holiday.

These workers below from 1900 are not civil servants. Civil servants were a privileged class.


This is a photo of an American office circa 1900, from a German museum site called HNF. The photo I wanted to use, of a British office, has copyright restrictions. But it was similar in that it shows office work being done primarily by women. Typewriters had come onto the scene by the late 1880s, and government offices in the UK used a lot of them.

At first I thought that government office staff would be considered civil servants, but Wikipedia says they aren’t. Teachers, police, health workers, and office staff are not civil servants, even if they are employed by the government. Civil servants were hired on professional merit and had to take examinations, so they were probably educated. Since women did not attend universities in any great number in 1900, I’ll guess most civil servants were men. Needless to say, they enjoyed a cushy work schedule!

1 A Man For All Seasons, The Economist, 9 May 2015 (A book review of a biography about the economist John Maynard Keyes)

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