The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy

The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy

Book - 1999
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"A brilliant, multifaceted chronicle of economic and social change." -- The New York Times

At the outset of the 1870s, the British aristocracy could rightly consider themselves the most fortunate people on earth: they held the lion's share of land, wealth, and power in the world's greatest empire. By the end of the 1930s they had lost not only a generation of sons in the First World War, but also much of their prosperity, prestige, and political significance.

Deftly orchestrating an enormous array of documents and letters, facts, and statistics, David Cannadine shows how this shift came about--and how it was reinforced in the aftermath of the Second World War. Astonishingly learned, lucidly written, and sparkling with wit, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy is a landmark study that dramatically changes our understanding of British social history.
Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1999, c1992
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed. --
ISBN: 9780375703683
Branch Call Number: 305.52.0941/CAN 4565nf 1


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Aug 09, 2016

This is a monumental book at 708 dense pages, but the author writes so well and pulls his material together in an interesting manner that reading is a joy. The author sets the stage by describing the ascendancy of the British aristocracy about 1880, in terms of wealth, political power and social status. He then goes on to describe in exhaustive and at times exhausting detail the vicissitudes of this class and its at times quick and at times slow but inexorable decline over the subsequent 100 years. It is perhaps but little appreciated to what degree the British aristocracy dominated the country until the last quarter of the 19th century, which makes their fall from grace that much more dramatic. As a footnote, this book forms a marvellous backdrop to the intrigues of such popular series as Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. The author lays out the conditions which allowed very few people to dominate and how changing economic, political and social conditions ended their reign. It is always interesting to see how such a small and closed class if not caste was able to justify its exalted situation as God-given and natural. For some, the passing of their way of life was a shock. This is an excellent, very well-written and argued book and well worth the effort of plowing through it.

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