Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class

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9780007335503: Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class

Prize-winning author Adam Nicolson tells the story he was born to write - the real story of England. It is the gentry that has made England what it was and, to a degree, still is. In this vivid, lively book, history has never been more readable. 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. The virtues we may all believe to be part of the English culture - honesty, affability, courtesy, liberality - each of these has their source in gentry life cultivated over five hundred years. These folk were the backbone of England. Adam Nicolson's riveting new 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. The families have been selected from all over the country and range from the famous to the unknown. Some families are divided by politics , such as the family that took different sides in the Reformation; others destroy their inheritance through reckless gambling or investments . All of them are vivid depictions of the life and code of the gentry, and have left deep archives of family papers which the author has been able to use, often for the very first time. THE GENTRY is first and foremost a wonderful sweep of English history. It presents a convincing argument on what has created the distinctive English character but with the sheer readability of an epic novel.

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About the Author:

Adam Nicolson is the author of many books on history, travel and the environment. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives at Sissinghust Castle in Kent. This is his sixth book for HarperCollins - his previous five being 'Earls of Paradise', 'Men of Honour', 'Sea Room', 'Power and Glory', 'Seamanship' and Sissinghurst.

Review:

"dazzling...there is an exhilarating narrative sweep that takes the story across the centuries, but above all there is a unity of theme and place that roots it in English history and the English landscape...This is an enviably good book" THE SPECTATOR "Nicolson is absolutely the perfect person to capture all this. He has a feeling for land and for tradition...I was willingly swept along by his torrent of overblown romanticism...The other great strength of the book is the new path it beats through six centuries of English rural history...Clever, moving and put together with expert craftsmanship, THE GENTRY is the most enjoyable book I've read this year" FINANCIAL TIMES "fascinating and brilliantly written...this book is a wonderfully readable memorial to (the Gentry)" SUNDAY TIMES "masterly... a wonderfully evocative work of historical rehabilitation" SUNDAY TELEGRAPH "A consummate writer and keen-eyed reader of landscape, Nicolson gives us mouth-watering descriptions...a fantastic book". TIME OUT "Adam Nicolson has that rare ability to pluck people from the pages of the past and transform them into living, breathing figures...the author, whose skill as a writer has allowed him to unfold these lives...and to describe their loves and fears with a well-judged elegance that make his book a complete pleasure to read" COUNTRY LIFE "[Nicolson] paints a fascinating picture of forced marriages, violent deaths, corruption, loyalties, betrayals and, ultimately, a lost way of life... the book has flashes of insight and empathy to remind us that each family had its own individual dramas as well as being symbols of their time." DAILY MAIL

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