As society changes, so does what society needs. Some things that we couldn’t live without a century ago, don’t really make much sense in the world we live in today. And with everything that disappears, so does a job that made that specific thing work.
It’s weird to look back at history and see how things we now deem obvious and commonplace were once a rare commodity or simply non-existent. And since technology will only move forward, we’ll see many more jobs disappearing in the near and distant future. But for now, let’s look in the other direction of the timeline and see which jobs have disappeared over the years.
While we now have computers to do our calculating for us, a computer used to be an actual human that did nothing all day but make calculations. NASA famously used them not even sixty years ago, so this is certainly one field of technology where we’ve made astounding progress, but it did cost the jobs of many talented and brilliant people.
At one time, we didn’t really have alarm clocks. And since mostly everyone worked in factories, people still had to get up early to get to work. The ideal-at-the-time solution for this was a “knocker upper”, who did nothing else but tap people’s windows with a stick whenever it was time for them to wake up. I have no idea how this specific technique dealt with people that have their bedroom at the back of their house.
Ancient Egypt has always had a bit of a posh side to it, and this job is no different. If you were someone of standing in Egypt, you were entitled to a sandal bearer – who did nothing else but carry your sandals around and wash your feet. While we know sandal bearers existed, we still aren’t quite sure what their actual status was in society.
When London was smelly, they invented the herb strewer job to alleviate this problem. A job purely meant for women, they were tasked with nothing else than walking around and throwing herbs and petals on the royal grounds. The rest of London was allowed to remain smelly, as long as the King and Queen didn’t have to suffer for it.
Corporal punishment had one big downside: you can’t beat a future king. The solution for this problem was almost as elegant as the punishment itself, however. Instead of whipping the future king, they would employ another kid to take all the king’s whippings. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but someone had to do it.
No, this isn’t a joke. In the period of Queen Elizabeth I, as a response to what Queen Mary did to the protestants, Elizabeth hired priest hunters to find and capture catholic priests. The intended goal was ofcourse to eventually torture them and send them back to their God. No better way to compensate for a religious cleansing than by performing another religious cleansing, right? God save the Queen, indeed.
Imagine not having cars and trying to make your way around Sweden way back when. As there were no steam-powered boats yet either, they had no better idea than to create rower women, who basically acted as a water taxi up until World War I, when the industrialisation really took off. All they did was row their boats so people could get from island A to island B.