The Gentry: Stories of the English

Adam Nicolson

The Gentry: Stories of the English

We may well be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, but for generations England was a country dominated by its middling families, rooted on their land, in their locality, with a healthy interest in turning a profit from their property and a deep distrust of the centralised state. Adam Nicolson’s book concentrates on fourteen families with a time-span from 1400 to the present day. From the medieval gung-ho of the Plumpton family to the high-seas adventures of the Lascelles in the 18th-century, to more modern examples, the book provides a chronological picture of the English, seen through these intimate, passionate, powerful stories of family saga. 3.7 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
The Gentry: Stories of the English

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication October 2011
ISBN 978-0007335497
Publisher HarperPress
 

We may well be ‘a nation of shopkeepers’, but for generations England was a country dominated by its middling families, rooted on their land, in their locality, with a healthy interest in turning a profit from their property and a deep distrust of the centralised state. Adam Nicolson’s book concentrates on fourteen families with a time-span from 1400 to the present day. From the medieval gung-ho of the Plumpton family to the high-seas adventures of the Lascelles in the 18th-century, to more modern examples, the book provides a chronological picture of the English, seen through these intimate, passionate, powerful stories of family saga.

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Reviews

The Financial Times

Lucy Worsley

How unnecessary, you might think, to write a whole book about the comfortably well-off. But The Gentry isn’t a panegyric; it’s as cutting as it is celebratory … Clever, moving and put together with expert craftsmanship, The Gentry is the most enjoyable and impressive book I’ve read this year.

28/10/2011

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The Spectator

David Crane

Dazzling ... The Gentry is as much about landscape as it is about the history of a class. If land — money in the 18th century — has always dominated gentry lives, they in turn have left their richly seductive imprint on it; and it is this interaction of the human and the physical that brings out the best in Nicolson ... This is an enviably good book.

29/10/2011

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The Sunday Times

Nick Rennison

Fascinating and brilliantly written … Despite Nicolson’s strange argument that David Cameron’s administration represents a return to something that looks “suspiciously like gentry-style government”, its time has gone, but this book is a wonderfully readable memorial to it.

06/11/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Andrew Lycett

Nicolson fondly sees the present Government, with its Big Society ambitions, as a harbinger of a return to gentry ideals. Be that as it may, he has emerged from the archives to write a wonderfully evocative work of historical rehabilitation.

09/11/2011

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The Times

Iain Finlayson

Nicolson, romantic but not sentimental, identifies the modern House of Commons as “a version of the gentry community in full and florid action”. He is an empiricist of social stability who understands, like di Lampedusa in The Leopard, that the status quo owes its consistency to an ability to adapt to social and political pressures.

29/01/2011

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The Literary Review

Alexander Waugh

… on the face of it, this new study looks pretty grim. But it isn’t. Quite the reverse, for what is clear from the first page is that Nicolson is a very gifted writer ... If you strip the book of its title and accept it for what it really is — twelve exquisite, intimate and riveting family histories — you will be very happy, but if an encyclopaedic description or absolute definition of the English gentry is what you are after, you may be frustrated. Nicolson’s view of a gentry that can be roundly described by traits such as discretion, honour, steadiness, control, courage, fantasy and so on — all words used as chapter titles — ignores the simple fact that other types in all other ages may be just as aptly described by the same words.

01/12/2011

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The Economist

The Economist

In tracing the rise and fall of this ruling class, Mr Nicolson has some fascinating stories to tell, and he tells them well, not least that of the Capels, who were forced by penury to live abroad and found themselves in Brussels on the eve of the battle of Waterloo. He concludes that competition, unkindness and dominance always underlay the beautiful sense of community which the gentry world embodied. But that is life: it is “a struggle and community is political”.

03/12/2011

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The Guardian

Rosemary Hill

… the idea of the gentry [is] a slippery one and Adam Nicolson's determination to trace its continuity through the fortunes of a dozen families from 1410 to the present results in a curious, incoherent book, a mixture of telling detail and sentimental generalisations.

19/11/2011

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