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Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain Since the Industrial Revolution


W. D. Rubinstein, 2006
ISBN 1 904863 12 4
20

Who were the very rich in Britain during the past 200 years? Until recently, surprisingly little was known about them beyond anecdotes and stereotypes. Men of Property, the first book by an historian to examine and analyze who the very rich in Britain really were, first appeared in 1981 and has had a wide influence. It is credited with helping to shape the so-called "Gentlemanly Capitalism" school of economic historians, which has heavily affected our notions of economic growth in modern Britain. Men of Property now appears in a fully updated edition, with new chapters on the very rich in post-war Britain. William D. Rubinstein found that the plurality of the rich in Victorian Britain earned their fortunes in commerce and finance, especially in the City of London, rather than in manufacturing and industry. This study is largely based in a detailed, comprehensive analysis of the probate records of wealth at death, as well as income tax and other objective sources. From these, a full picture has been built up of the occupations, social origins, and career patterns of the very riche in Britain since the early nineteenth century, including both businessmen and the great landowners.

This fully updated edition includes extensive new chapters on the wealthy in the 1940-80 period - when, because of extraordinarily high rates of taxation and other factors, the number of very rich persons in Britain declined sharply - and on the wealthy in contemporary Britain. This last chapter focuses on the remarkable increase in the scale of riches in Britain during the past quarter-century, which occurred at the same time as an increase in general levels of affluence.

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