Marriage, Debt, and the Estates System: English Landownership, 1650-1950
Until the later nineteenth century the great landlords and the gentry were the central element in the social and political life of the country, and even as late as 1940, in the supreme crisis of British history, the choice of leader lay between a grandson of the 11th Earl of Devon and a grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. This book examines the social and legal foundations of this class - the estate and the family - from the late seventeenth century, when it freed itself from many of the constraints of royal power, to the present century when it became submerged by mass democracy. It sets out to answer the question why, in the first industrial nation, the landed elite so long retained its role. Sir John Habakkuk's comprehensive examination of the structure of the landed family, its estate, and its relations with other social groups sheds light on this problem, and makes a major contribution to historical debate.
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