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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