An exploration of the UK unpaid carer's world

Hospitality                            hidden page                Ross DMC - ways and means here

“To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath your roof” 

“In French, the word Hôte is used for both host and guest, and it is as it should be, since there is no differentiation between host and guest, wherever there is true hospitality. The host, of course, provides wine and food, which money can buy, but the guests provide the pleasure of their company, which no money can buy. They bring to the table that which adds sparkle to the wine and flavour to the food, their wit and their news, an articulate appreciation of the good things provided for their delight, all of which makes the difference between a meal that is both enjoyable and memorable, and a dismal waste of money, time and trouble.

The host who confers a favour upon his guest, and the guest who confers an honour upon his host are equally hateful. Neither the one nor the other falls within the meaning of the French name, L’Hôte, a name which indicates perfect equality and understanding between two persons entertaining each other … In hospitality … there should be no bargaining: each giveth the best that he hath to give, without any sense of either inferiority or superiority. 
Hospitality … is a gift. No host can hope to be a good host, nor can any guest be a good guest unless he be blessed with this wonderful gift of the spirit of hospitality.”

source 28 here from my very early days of websiting
It may seem strange on first reflection that when hospitality is given or received there may be elements of social control which pervade the situation. Even if we take it at the level of ensuring that our children behave themselves when visiting another house it should be apparent that social control is to do with behavioural interaction. This behaviour concerns the context and manner in which hospitality is given, received and reciprocated.
Hospitality is connected with social control in as much that dimensions of it affect the lives of those to whom it is dispensed as part of the economic relationship. Some are fortunate enough to be able to purchase hospitality while others were dependent upon it for their survival. There are unwritten sets of rules dictating what can or cannot be done in various circumstances. There are also sets of assumptions which need to be examined. 

It is appropriate to sketch one or two alternative reasons for giving or accepting hospitality. We mentioned that some might purchase it: no reciprocity involved there, of course. The ‘hospitality industry’ has, perhaps subconsciously, promoted the notion that money can buy sincere and genuine hospitality with from one to five-star rating. We will come to term this an aspect of ‘economic hospitality’. Much more historical but with overtones within the present day is a facet of economic hospitality where the feudal lord and later, the landlord extended a somewhat coercive hospitality in return for labour, homage and, at times, defence. We will briefly look at some historical considerations before coming back to this dimension of economic hospitality.
A Little History 

The extent of hospitality is one of the hallmarks of the level of culture within the advancement of society and a brief debate of the origins of hospitality can serve as another reminder of the civilizing process. The Latin hospes meant ‘a guest’ and from this word was derived hospitium which was a place where a guest was received. From these words, as most dictionaries will reveal, we have derived hostel, hotel, hospital and hospice. The hospitium in law today is the area in an inn where the guest is served with food, drink and receives accommodation. This stems from monastic use of hospitium where mediaeval pilgrims could fund hospitality or hospitium.

The development, evolution even, of hospitality would make an interesting study in itself. It is appropriate to briefly suggest a few milestones. Within our primitive ancestry there may have been a little entertaining of outsiders but the success of the settlement depended upon defence from those who sought to gain advantage of possessions, land or people. Population growth and the advancement of technology permitted by improved agricultural techniques accelerated the division of labour. Men who could specialise in leadership and soldiery created the castle and town and as the strong became protected by the weak (the strong merely organised the weak into a cohesive force) the extent of dependency was increased and hierarchies emerged. 
“In our modern society the State “… intervenes to protect those who still possess supplies from those who do not.” However, “It is not always the State that performs this role: they also arrange their own security, paying other people to fight.”  Barbarity was slowly curbed and life settled down to await ‘the birth of chivalry’. The remainder of the ‘civilizing process’ has been described by Elias as we have seen earlier. 

Hospitality on any scale emerges at the beginning of the Middle Ages. Generalising about the “whole medieval period” Henisch remarks that “In the cut-throat realities of everyday life, to nourish was not so much an act of love as a demonstration of power”.   One had “to equal or preferably surpass, the magnificence of allies and enemies” to retain any influence or authority. “Lavish generosity was the hallmark of the important man.” Considering that the smaller social units were scattered over the countryside and were dominated by the feudal lords we can derive the term ‘baronial hospitality’ to describe what occurred at this time. Various means were adopted to indicate status and as salt was a highly significant economic good it is not surprising that it had a role. 

The important guests, then, were afforded the courtesy of being placed above the salt and provided with food which suited their social position. Social control was at work in as much that seniority was judged by the (social) distance of one’s seat from the king, baron or other head of household. Those who ate “humble pie” (made from the umbels or giblets and offal) and who “could not make ends meet” (ruffs worn round the neck prevented the tying of the napkin – the poor had no napkins) never met anyone of standing and were kept in their place below the salt. 

While the salt cellar has nothing more than metaphorical social significance today, the seating hierarchy is still pursued with vigour and all eyes are turned towards the top table of a modern banquet. In the home there are similar placement considerations and when hospitality is dispensed, care is taken to demonstrate acceptance of the visitor. In the same way that the fatted calf was set on the spit for visiting nobles in former times, some consideration is today given as to the provision of (socially) suitable food for those who enter our house. “In this country the ritual of dining has come down to us from a time when dinner was the only regular meal of the day. We ‘dress for dinner’ not daily as we used to but on occasion. We sit in order of seniority, men and women alternately. We may touch nothing on the table till it has been offered to us by the host or hostess, or by their servants. On formal occasions we begin with ‘grace’ and end with ‘the loyal toast’”

more      text from my online book here  hope it's of use


A Scots Hospitality Symbol


           The quaich

A stranger ye come . .   

a friend ye will depart                    
Auld Scottish Welcome

A continuum here

Return to Ross DMC - ways and means here

pagetop      A somewhat specialised look at hospitality here

                      Ross DMC - ways and means here