While browsing tables of contents for issues of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, I ran into this term: horselads.
The term harks back to the days of horse-farming in rural Britain, and to the social hierarchy on rural farms (those Brits!). Horselads were at the bottom, while still valued for their knowledge of work horses, although they were assigned other menial field labor. The horselads received room and board as part of their compensation, in part because the farms were relatively isolated, or at least by keeping horselads resident on the farms their labor was assured.
Horselads could be recognized by their by their distinctive dress at the hiring fairs where they looked for their next position—they moved each year—while striving to move up the hierarchy.
Because of their low status, annually fluid employment situation, and the way written history (even modern history) is generated, little directly from horselads has made it into records. Giles and Giles opted to examine the graffiti in barns where horselads lived and worked to obtain insights into their lives.
Conclusions: horselads wrote about sex and the ladies, they glamorized themselves, they recorded song lyrics, they wrote about hardships (extreme weather, boredom), and they drew pictures (mostly line drawings) on the same subjects (especially the first).
I wondered if the horselads are in the direct social ancestry of North America’s western cowboys, but these British researchers do not address this point.