Though reasonably well written stylistically, with an authoritative voice, this book is deeply flawed.
The list of things wrong with this book are too numerous to delineate here. The book, published in 2006, comes a year after three different scholarly works which dealt with this same subject. _Master's and Servants_ however is not a scholarly book.
The first sentence of the second paragraph for instance is clearly wrong. "The idea that working as a servant was in itself somehow demeaning simply didn't exist." Indeed, the exact opposite has long been considered to be true. Servants and service WERE looked down upon according to everything from court records to historical documents (for instance the sentence is directly contradicted by William Harrison's 1577 description of England and servants as useless to themselves and the commonwealth) to the popular fiction of the time (repeatedly in popular drama servants are shamed, embarrassed, and yearning to be free, etc.). Historically, from medieval commoners refusal to enter traditional forms of service once plague produced demographic shrinkage opened up new economic possibilities to Shakespeare's 1611 Ariel and Caliban, service was is often frequently down upon and for many considered a temporary position that became doubly negative for adult men and women throughout the period. This is as has been well documented by social and literary historians like Kieth Wrightson, Michael Thorton Burnett, Lawrence Stone, et al. Indeed it is far from clear what promotes Sim to her conclusion in the face of the overwhelming historical data and historiography that produces the opposite conclusion. One is forced to suspect that it is the product of some dogmatic presentist agenda.
Alison Sim is not a scholar of the period. Admittedly, there is a part of her argument that might be adapted from the better of the scholarly monographs published the year before--although she does not site it, perhaps it is coincidence. However, for the most part her description of masters and servants in early modern England is helplessly outdated and consequently largely inaccurate.
So much so that I felt the need to rebut it here.
I recognize the uses of lay texts for the general public, however a publisher should require that they be at least somewhat accurate upon key questions. Not to be an elitist education snob, or slip into ad hominem, but works like this should be written by professional scholars not museum guides, however fantastic they may be--and a sideline as the "education officer" does not a scholar make.
In short, I do not find the book particularly useful for even the most casual historian. The text would have been immensely improved had Alison Sim taken the time to read the three texts on service written in 2005, and investigated the nuances of the academic debate upon the subject.
All in all the main critique of Sim's book is that she time and again misuses her sources and cherry picks information for convenience to her argument, while consistently demonstrating a sophomoric comprehension of the larger cultural contexts of the sixteenth century.
Although all three of the 2005 works I have mentioned are literary focused, they all draw heavily on archival documents.