Making Aristocracy Work explores the political role of the British peerage in the thirty years before the First World War. It charts its transition from ruling class to embattled faction, analysing the response of the peers to the challenge of democracy and their impact on the constitutional order which emerged from the turbulent politics of the late Victorian and Edwardian era.
The book opens with a study of the House of Lords, assessing its strengths and weaknesses as a political institution and offering new interpretations of the constitutional crises of 1884-5 and 1909-11. It proceeds to assess the wider activity of the peerage in national, local, and imperial government, and the changing nature of its mentalite as a political elite.
The evolution of the peerage is no simplistic story of descent from power to impotence, argues Dr Adonis. Under Lord Salisbury, the peers met challenges to their political standing with a determination to refashion their authority and safeguard their influence. They partially succeeded in so doing, and their efforts - successful or not - left a heavy imprint on Britain's fledgling democracy.
A readable book thoroughly grounded in the aristocracy's rich archives, Making Aristocracy Work is an important contribution to our understanding of the development of Britain's modern political system.
a welcome addition ... scholarly and thorough study
Times Literary Supplement
`formidably researched and constantly fascinating book ... He is neither excessively deferential nor uncomprehendingly hostile ... as an account of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century peerage at work, this book will not be bettered. And it should be read by anyone with an interest in second chambers: past, present - or future.'
David Cannadine, The Observer
'scholarly, but quite fascinating, new book The Daily Mail
'This is a very important and salutary book ... it is written with elegance and clarity.'
J.H. Plumb, Financial Times
'extraordinary lumber-room of a book ... My first visit to the Other Place, some thirty years ago, remains a vivid memory because the conditions were so similar to those described by Adonis.'
London Review of Books
'a welcome addition ... scholarly and thorough study'
Times Literary Supplement
`This book is more than the history of an institution. It is a study of the career patterns and aspirations of a political class.'
`Lucidly written and based on a wealth of archives, Andrew Adonis's Making Aristocracy Work ... fires efficiently on three cylinders, as an analysis of a power elite in operation, as a contribution to the still neglected study of how Parliament performed its functions, and as a commentary on the adjustment of pre-1914 British politics to what contemporaries chose to call 'democracy'.'
Paul Smith, University of Southampton, EHR Apr.96