English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century

English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century

English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century

English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century

Excerpt

The theme of the decline of aristocratic power has often been treated in the political histories of the nineteenth century, and is indeed inescapable. Almost as often the influence of the landed interest has been prematurely dismissed, in eagerness to write nineteenth-century history in terms of the growth of middle- class power, the democratization of institutions, and the increasing importance of radical and working-class movements. While not seeking to re-tell the political history of the period, this book may contribute towards a more just appreciation of the relative importance of the different major social groups in the life of the country. It deals in the main with the economic history of the landed interest, and with its role as a social group. It includes much agrarian and some industrial history as seen from the landowners' point of view, although it is not intended to provide a history of agriculture, still less one of industry or the economy as a whole. It should not be taken as a definitive or exhaustive history of the landed interest: the vast riches of the private archives of landed families are increasingly being made available to historians, and are only just beginning to be tapped. In the present early stage of such research this book is, like all history only more so, an interim report.

The first seven chapters of the book aim to present an analysis and description of the main elements in the institutions and way of life of the landed classes, suggesting their significance for society at large, and emphasizing the forces of change which were at work within an order which in many ways presented a remarkably stable appearance to the outside world. The last five chapters take up the theme of change, and examine the dynamic elements in the economic social and political life of the group, in a sequence of chronological subdivisions of the century and a half with which this book is concerned. The impact of the major changes in the social structure of the country, and . . .

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