Aristocracies or nobilities dominated the social, economic, and institutional history of all European counties until only a few generations ago. The relics of their power, in traditions and behavior, in architecture and the arts, are still all around us. This engaging Very Short Introduction shows how ideas of aristocracy originated in ancient times, were transformed in the middle ages, and have only fallen apart over the last two centuries, following the outbreak of the American and French Revolutions. William Doyle, an authority on eighteen-century European history, here strips away the myths in which aristocracies have always sought to shroud themselves, but he also astutely delineates the true sources of their enduring power. Their outlook and behavior affected the rest of society in innumerable and sometimes surprising ways, but perhaps most surprising was the way in which the centuries-old aristocratic hegemony crumbled away. In this Very Short Introduction William Doyle considers why this happened and what is left today.
About the Author
William Doyle is Emeritus Professor of History and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, where he taught from 1986 to 2008. He had previously taught at the Universities of York and Nottingham and has held visiting appointments at Oxford, Cambridge and institutions in France and the USA. He has written a dozen books, mainly on eighteenth century history, and is a Fellow of the British Academy.