Lawrence James


The Rise and Fall of the British Aristocracy covers the fortunes and the political and social power exercised by the nobility from the Middle Ages to present day. It embraces the overthrow of Edward II and Richard II, the Wars of the Roses, the 17th-century civil wars, nineteenth-century political compromises and the scuppering of today’s autocratic anti-terrorism laws. It is also about the aristocracy’s influence on culture. In respect of sport there are asides on hunting, prize-fighting and racing. Conspicuous consumption, the cultivation of taste and the long war with poachers are also featured. It is a book about continuity, change and the astonishing capacity for survival of the aristocracy. Readers will encounter medieval peers who wrote chivalric verses and terrorized their neighbours, peasants who rebelled, peers who died in defence of our liberties, peers who switched sides in a manner which would have shamed Flashman and lords who got drunk, built follies, and patronized the arts. Scoundrels rub shoulders with aesthetes, duelists and men of the highest principles.

Book Details:

  • Author: Lawrence James
  • Published Year: 2010
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Little Brown
Lawrence James

Lawrence James

Lawrence James was a founder member of York University and then took a research degree at Merton College, Oxford. After a distinguished teaching career he became a full-time writer in 1985 and has emerged as one of the outstanding narrative historians of his generation. His books include Crimea: The War with Russia in Contemporary Photographs, The Savage Wars: British Campaigns in Africa 1870-1920, Mutiny: Mutinies in British and Commonwealth Forces 1797-1956 and Imperial Rearguard: The Last Wars of Empire.Lawrence James edited the Daily Telegraph British Empire supplement (1997) and was th...
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Book Reviews

  • "...sprightly study is rich in anecdote and detail..."
  • "“…a detailed and enjoyable political history of the British aristocracy…a readable, chronological account packed with lively and interesting anecdotes…James’s writing is easy and fluent, and (that) his book is written for the general reader, not for the scholar, the historian or the professional genealogist. His chapters on the Irish aristocracy, on American republicanism, on the Whig movement and on aristocratic sporting habits are all first rate, but where he excels is in his frequent and fine descriptions of the shifting balance in relations between the aristocracy and the Crown, and between the aristocracy and the middleclass. He demonstrates considerable skill in marshalling vast amounts of disparate material and forming it all into a coherent and structured whole. There is not a single page without some peculiarly interesting fact upon it…This is atavistic history, to be read aloud at the fireside, a book that returns to the once popular notion that English history is essentially a history of the monarchy and the aristocracy. Does anyone remember Our Island Story? A wonderful book – well, this is the same sort of thing, only for grown-ups.”  "
    Alexander Waugh, Literary Review
  • " “Lawrence James’s stylish book is a reminder of the extraordinary staying power of Britain’s aristocracy from 1066 into the 20th century….one of the delights of this book is its attention to noblemen who tend to be overlooked in histories preoccupied with the big political families.”"
    Sunday Express
  • "“James traces the history of the aristocracy at breakneck speed in two dozen short and snappy chapters with few pretensions to scholarship but a keen eye for amusing details…he keeps the anecdotes flowing nicely. “"
    Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
  • "  “…paints the nobility with all its warts….hehas a gift for illustrating points with memorable examples and writing generally pithy prose…”"
    Financial Times
  • "“…an entertaining work…”"
    Noel Malcolm, Spectator
  • "“…this erudite history…He is brilliant at dissecting the changing fashions of architecture as an expression of power…He has an aptitude for the literary flourish and caustic aside…”"
    Times Literary Supplement
  • "  “An accessible history of the last 900 years through the perspective of the aristocracy, and of the aristocracy through that of this history, Lawrence James’s well-written book…”"
    Jeremy Black, BBC History Magazine
  • "“…this engaging history.”"
  • "“Impeccably researched, balanced and brilliantly entertaining, Aristocrats is an enthralling history of power, influence and an extraordinary knack for survival of a class that has always wielded power and exerted influence on culture, sport, politics and much else besides…”"
    Warwick Books
  • "  “Lawrence James has written the story of this ruling class and its nine-hundred-year rule with an insight and accuracy that lays bare the infrastructure that supports a much misunderstood function, whilst putting it vividly in context.”"
    The Resident
  • "  ...Lawrence James provides an enjoyable gallop through British history, looking at the politics, economic position and social role of the aristocracy over ten centuries...This elegantly written, wide-ranging book demonstrates the remarkable continuity of the aristocracy..."
    Times Literary Supplement