process transforming the hitherto rather vague concept of nobility into something that was both more precise and more graded. In assessing the wealth of the aristocracy, Clark moderates (without discarding altogether; the distinction traditionally made between a commercially enterprising British elite and a more conservative, rentier Continental nobility, still hemmed in by rules of derogeance. But in the political sphere a sharper contrast emerges. Europe's old noble houses lost power and were overshadowed (especially in France and to a lesser extent in Savoy) by a new office-holding nobility, while in Britain both peers and gentry continued (with a few exceptions, such as the Gaelic Irish nobility) to play an active part in national and local politics, sharing the rewards of office and patronage quite harmoniously. In cultural life, too, a clear distinction is made between Continental nobles aping the manners of Versailles, and later adopting the style of the Paris salons, and a British elite whose 'less centralized' culture (p. 354) was rooted in country houses rather than at court and flourished in provincial cities as well as in London. One might add that it was also nourished by the cities of Italy, whose civilization the British first encountered in their Latin lessons at school and later, at first hand, when they made the Grand Tour. This book is, of course, not the first to compare Britain's state and society with those of its continental neighbours. During the period under consideration several contemporary writers looked critically across the Channel, from Sir John Fortescue in the late fifteenth century to Voltaire in the eighteenth. Clark does not offer much to early attempts at comparison, though the freshness and vigour which these particular writers brought to their task would have been worth emulating. His own writing tends to be rather ponderous, labouring under a burden of sociological theory that generally obscures more than it illuminates. He has read widely in the English and French scholarly literature of his subject and he has some interesting information to offer. But after so much labour, his conclusions are sometimes disappointingly banal as in the statement that 'in almost all societies local political power is held disproportionately by the wealthy' or that 'people tend to be culturally influenced the most by those who enjoy high prestige' (pp. 364, 368). There are also occasional malapropisms ('Anglified', 'Francization') and misspellings ('Hanovarian', 'Britanny', 'nobilites') which, though trivial in themselves, ought surely to have been corrected not least in a university press book. HUGH DUNTHORNE Swansea