The more perceptive nineteenth-century social worker saw her task as the repair of relationships broken by the social changes consequent on the first Industrial Revolution. Before those changes, social work was an ingredient of other tasks: as Octavia Hill (1893) expressed it, ‘district visiting was less work than neighbourly kindness taking its natural course in the flow of help to individuals who had long been known’. In her re-socialising task, however, the social worker was faced with the problem of identifying her role. Sometimes, the simple re-creation of rural arcadia and the social relations appropriate to it seemed a sufficient objective and model. At other times the master-servant relationship appeared helpful. What was required was a term for transactions between social workers and those they were trying to help which did justice to the emerging character of those transactions. This character seems to consist of two main elements: the central part played by the social worker’s own personality, and the importance of reciprocity.