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Twilight of the Ascendancy [Paperback]

Mark Bence-Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (24 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0094723508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0094723504
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impeccably researched, great read 30 July 2000
This is the story of the Irish "Ascendancy", the leading Anglo-Irish class/old Norman families, who fought valiantly in centuries past to make Ireland their own - only forgetting they were occasionally stepping on the feet of the Irish people along the way. This is the story of their "twilight", the setting of the sun on the "doomed aristocracy" which started for good in the 19th century. The stories about the families are varied, as was their historical and personal background. They are told with sympathy but at the same time with a very intelligent 20/20 hindsight. Once again impeccably researched by Mark Bence-Jones, which makes it a wonderful and trustworthy source for everyone interested in Irish history. Beside that, it is very well written, an "easy read" but with enough tough facts to keep the reader's mind busy. And it contains the most "colourful" black-and-white photos I have seen in a history book in a long time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bence-Jones:Twilight of the Ascendancy 14 Oct 2010
By Brendan
This is an excellent account of the demise of the landed gentry class in Ireland focussing on the period from the mid 19th century to the late 20th century. The "Ascendancy" class in Ireland in majority were Protestant upper-class owners of large estates, generally acquired during the British colonisation of Ireland. They retained strong connections with the British military, including during both world wars. A significant minority of the ascendancy were some Norman-Irish Catholic families who retained their lands by remaining loyal to the crown.

The book is well-researched and well-written, and is unusual in telling two centuries of history through the eyes of an often misunderstood elite. Bence-Jones decribes the ascendancy families as strongly identifying themselves as Irish but also being staunch supporters of the monarchy and the union with Britain. This contrasts with a more common view in Ireland of the ascendancy being seen as purely "West British".

The narrative moves from the glory days of the ascendancy, when they lived lavish lifestyles funded from land rents and dominated politics (prior to Catholic emancipation), to their gradual loss of position due to land reforms and the moves to Home Rule and eventual Irish independence.

Bence-Jones highlights how the ascendancy was affected by the land war of the late 19th century and by the Irish war of independence and subsequent civil war, when many of their country houses were burnt down. As the author of an authoritative book on Irish country houses, he highlights this as a period of significant loss of Irish heritage.

The ascendancy had lost much of its economic and political power by the mid 20th century and many of their country houses fell into neglect.
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