The fall and rise of the English upper class

Houses, kinship and capital since 1945

By Daniel R. Smith

The fall and rise of the English upper class
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  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526157010
  • Publish Date: Apr 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526157003
  • Publish Date: Apr 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5700-3
    • Published Date: April 2023


    The fall and rise of the English upper class explores the role traditionalist worldviews, articulated by members of the historic upper-class, have played in British society in the shadow of her imperial and economic decline in the twentieth century. Situating these traditionalist visions alongside Britain's post-Brexit fantasies of global economic resurgence and a socio-cultural return to a green and pleasant land, Smith examines Britain's Establishment institutions, the estates of her landed gentry and aristocracy, through to an appetite for nostalgic products represented with pastoral or pre-modern symbolism. It is demonstrated that these institutions and pursuits play a central role in situating social, cultural and political belonging. Crucially these institutions and pursuits rely upon a form of membership which is grounded in a kinship idiom centred upon inheritance and descent: who inherits the houses of privilege, inherits England.


    "An astonishing exploration of a contemporary moment - the one that exploded with Brexit -- this book creeps up on late modernity in a way that no direct address could. Who would think to juxtapose aristocracy, inheritance and nationhood with change, empiricism and contingency through the vernacular idiom of 'the house'? Smith shows how the idiom of the house perpetuates a world simultaneously lost and made, problematising Englishness in the most profound way."
    Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge

    "Much has been written about the supposed downfall of the aristocracy. But that doesn't explain their ongoing presence in society, nor our continued fascination with them. The Fall and Rise of Britain's Upper-Classes makes a distinct intervention into the sociology of the elites through the concept of 'the house society'. Arguing that 'idioms' of the aristocratic classes 'haunt' contemporary Britain, Smith argues that capitalism in England arose out of a landed aristocracy, and so logics of capital have always already been imbricated by inheritance, kinship and traditionalism. The book deftly combines a huge range of case studies, from close readings of political memoirs to an ethnography of a bookshop, to contend that our national imagination still hinges upon this privileged group. An important contribution to research on social class and privilege, Smith's book is a rare account of the group whose power is in its invisibility: the aristocracy."
    Laura Clancy, Lecturer in Media at Lancaster University and author of Running the family firm: How the royal family manages its image and our money


    List of tables

    Introduction: England's hope and loss
    Part I: Fall and rise
    1. Houses, kinship and capital
    2. England as a house society
    Part II: The social poetics of houses
    3. Imperial melancholia: Rory Stewart's The Marches (2017)
    4. Arcadianism: Adam Nicolson's Sissinghurst (2008)
    5. 'Island Englishness': Roger Scruton's England: An Elegy (2000)
    Part III: Houses as kinship & capital
    6. The Reading Public
    7. The Branded Gentry
    8. The fortunes of the land
    Conclusion: contingent remainders


    Daniel R. Smith is a Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

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