Godliness, as Roberts points out, was rather surprisingly not a major qualification for such an office in the 1640s and 1650s. Although national puritan figures like Col. Thomas Harrison appear briefly in the correspond- ence, as does the Engagement or loyalty oath to the new republic in 1649 and 1650, high politics is not much in evidence. Byrd seems to have adapted easily from being a servant of the king to an official of the republican and the Cromwellian state. Unfortunately, he did not succeed in weathering the return of the monarchy since an ambitious and ruthless rival sued for his office and made a series of allegations against him. Byrd soon found allies who could attest that he had never fought against Charles I nor sponsored a local petition calling for the regicide, but his record of positive royalism was virtually non- existent and he was the victim of the new, tougher politics which began to infect administration after 1660: as Roberts observes, Byrd was a man whose day had passed. It has to be admitted that Byrd's letters are occasionally dry and their human interest is muted: those between 1663 and 1680 are chiefly of interest for Byrd's attempts to win back his post, to preserve his property, and for some sidelights on the naval career of his son Mathias; although the ingredients, costs and dimensions of a spectacular 651b pie demand notice. Stephen Roberts provides a formidably detailed family history in the intro- duction and also does a great deal there to illuminate the workings of the seventeenth-century customs system. He convincingly reveals the continuity of methods and personnel which were at the heart of the customs. Those who know the history of the customs mainly in terms of the great shift from 'farmers' to 'commissioners', or, as we might say now, from privatised to state collection, will find Byrd's career and letters a very salutary lesson that such bureaucratic watersheds are often difficult to detect in practice. JOHN SPURR Swansea THE RURAL POOR IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY WALES. By David W Howell. University ofWales Press, Cardiff, 2000. Pp. 320. £ 35.00. 'This', says the publisher's blurb, 'is a pioneering study of the people who worked and lived off the land of eighteenth-century Wales'. After reading the book, one can only agree, for it is not just about the poor as the title suggests; it is a comprehensive study of rural society. David Howell brings his vast knowledge to bear on issues ranging from landownership through to crime, punishment and social breakdown. Drawing on a wealth of documentary sources, including gaol files of the Courts of Great Sessions, and skilfully