Class is one of the entries this anthology shares with Williams's Keywords. Williams begins the entry by noting, ‘Class is an obviously difficult word, both in its range of meanings and in its complexity in that particular meaning where it describes a social division’ (Williams 1983, 60). Pertaining in Roman times to education and the development of an ‘authoritative’ Classical education, its modern usage referring to social divisions emerged in the late eighteenth century (Williams 1982, 60–61). Class, as a malleable and nuanced constituent of the self, is indeed a complex attribute of both the identity of the traveller and that of other people encountered on their journey. Furthermore, the interaction of different social classes occurs prevalently during travel by removing people from their immediate social context and hastens comparisons and contrasts with the class divisions of the traveller's own country. In her 1796 account of Sweden, Mary Wollstonecraft (1796, 27, 28) reflects on the fact that Swedish servants are given poorer food than their masters and notes that it ‘appears to me a remnant of barbarism’, before conceding that ‘[t] he treatment of servants in most countries, I grant, is very unjust; and in England, the boasted land of freedom, it is often extremely tyrannical’. From the time of pilgrimages, travellers have noted how in Montaigne's (1957, 747) words ‘rubbing up against others’ is a feature of mobility (see Williams in Elsner and Rubiés 1999, 101–23).
In his essay ‘Traveling Cultures’, James Clifford (1997b, 33) identified the exclusive typology of the ‘traveller’ in academic study, writing: ‘A host of servants, helpers, companions, guides, and bearers have been excluded from the role of proper travellers because of their race and class, and because theirs seemed to be a dependent status in relation to the supposed independence of the individualist, bourgeois voyager.’ Following from Clifford, there have been repeated calls for, and attempts at, opening up the focus of the field of travel writing studies to include a more expansive typology of the ‘traveller’ (Lisle 2002, 5; Hutnyk 1999; Kilcup 2002; Thompson 2011, 5).
Particular attention on the class of the traveller has focused on studies of the Grand Tour; identified by John Towner (1985, 298) as ‘that circuit of western Europe undertaken by a wealthy social elite’.