digestible kind; it also touches on many general themes of current interest, notably the staggering corruption of Jacobean government and the impact of the breakdown of law and order on the Civil War tenantry. That these families experienced real financial difficulties is abundantly clear. For the Cecils these came, it is true, after 1640; for the others the 1590s were indeed the most critical years. Survival meant drawing on resources which often only aristocrats enjoyed: the fruits of high office and royal favour (Cecils, Wriothesleys, Howards), maximized lease-fines or industrial potential (Manners, Wriothesleys), a developing London rental (Cecils, Wriothesleys). All marketed their sons and daughters; and all sold land, the Howards raising a fantastic £ 100,000 by this last resort between 1640 and 1642. But when we turn to the determinants of economic experience we discover factors which could not have been unique to the peerage or to any aristocratic ethic. The theme of this book, as Professor Stone admits, is 'the importance of sheer chance and individual personality as independent variables in their own right' (p. xvii). Personal whims and extravagances, biological vagaries of fertility and mortality, the lotteries of marriage are again and again said to be the crucial elements in these particular crises. The story of the Cecils 'is one of dramatic changes dependent largely on personal character and biological accident' (p.159); that of the Berkeleys 'is almost entirely dominated by chance' (p. 267). Only the decline of the Wriothesleys arises 'out of certain general condi- tions that affected the class as a whole' (p. 240). The question the book still leaves with us is, therefore, this: can generalizations about the early- modern peerage ever have an explanatory function or must they always be merely descriptive? STUART CLARK Swansea A HISTORY OF THE NORTH WALES SLATE INDUSTRY. By Jean Lindsay. David and Charles, Newton Abbot and London, 1974. Pp. 376. £ 6.50. During the last quarter of a century the slate quarries and mines of Gwynedd have attracted the interest of people outside as well as inside the region, through such events as the closure of the Dinorwig and some other quarries; the publication of notable works, of fiction and of history and description, relating to the industry and the communities dependent upon it; the plight of those who contracted pneumoconiosis in the sawing, splitting and dressing sheds; the opening of industrial museums at Penrhyn Castle and Llanberis; the provision of conducted tours of a slate mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog; and the various celebrations of the centenary of the formation of the North Wales Quarrymen's Union. It is fitting that in 1974, the year of the latter celebrations, there was published this wide-ranging account by Dr. Jean Lindsay of the history of slate production. As is well known, the slate industry was a major provider of employ- ment in north-west Wales from the late-eighteenth century until the 1960s. It brought riches to a few owners and created a harsh environment for thousands of workers and their families. The distinctive social life of the