The Making of a Ruling Class: Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, by Linda Colley

Since I am going to argue with some parts of this book, let me say at once that it is a significant study and well deserves the praise with which it has been received. Linda Colley writes with clarity and grace—and how much is won by these uncommon virtues! She also has a capacity for historical generalization that puts her into the front rank among her contemporaries. She has also been well served, in most respects, by her publisher, who has allowed her a multitude of illustrations—perhaps one to every five or six pages of text. These are evocative and well selected, even though some require a magnifying glass to understand (but why not?). Professor Colley has an alias as director of the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale, and she has clearly put her time there to good use. Some of the illustrations are extraordinarily good, such as Romney’s “Eton leaving portrait” of the young Charles Grey, and very many will be new to most readers. The one respect in which the publisher fails is in putting the notes at the end of the book instead of at the foot of the page. This is to wreck a historical work, but I will not argue that familiar case over again. The directors of a prestigious academic press should be ashamed.

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