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Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain Hardcover – 5 Apr 1994
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He gets so into this, that much of what he says is wrong: he describes Winston "Churchill's family and forebearers were hardly those which any politician, eager to establish an unimpeachable public reputaition, would have freely chosen." Um, except that they were all well-respected politicians in their own right, and Winston's father had been considered, for many years, next in line to be Prime Minister (a raging case of syphillus drove him mad and that was the end of that... but his affliction was not public knowledge and wouldn't have hampered his son's career).
He takes great joy in describing the misfortunes of the upper classes, without actually examining the causes: more often than not these declines had to do with the rising cost of living in a huge stone palace (as electricity, plumbing, and heating became necessary), the decline of the sevice industry (as factory work became a better option for the lower classes), the decline of the agricultural industry from which most of these people supported themselves with (as cheaper food could be imported from overseas), and a few significant stock market crashes. Instead, he drops hints that the sudden and disasterous lack of money was purely a personal fault.
He discusses the people who hang on to their country houses but require government aid to support them, completely ignoring the fact that 1) the government won't let the owners tear them down because they're historic and architectural landmarks and 2) the owners literally can't GIVE them away because the National Trust is already glutted with them and can't afford the upkeep on the ones they already have.
Cannadine's thesis is one that deserves taking into consideration: that it's time historians stopped fawning over the upper classes and started to look at them, warts and all. However, by the time this book was published, this was hardly an original notion and it was difficult to find a book that didn't take a critical view of the aristocracy. And it should be taken into consideration that, after a career built on mocking the upper classes, Mr. Cannadine's last TWO books have both been fawning histories talking about how the entire British Empire was built on the bravery, daring, and intelligence of the aristocrats. I guess he decided the tide had turned and it was time to jump on another bandwaggon?
There is very little substance to this book and no conclusions are reached, or even suggested.