England Changing Hands: Land Sales in England 1918-21, the Country Landowners Association and the decline of landed society: a European perspective

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


In 1921 The Estates Gazette announced that around one quarter of land in England and Wales had ‘changed hands in four years’, which, if accurate, equated to around 6-8 million acres. This figure, first estimated by F.M.L. Thompson and more recently re- examined by John Beckett and Michael Turner, if accurate represented the most extensive transfer of real property since the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. The land sales between 1918 and 1921 reflected, it has been suggested, a declining confidence in the economic returns from rentier landownership and in the social status of country house life. This was a decline predicated on agricultural depression, democratisation and the threat of nationalisation from new radical politicians and one catalysed by the First World War, which had robbed the landed establishment of so many of its sons. Alternatively F. M. L. Thompson suggested, in 1990, that this was part of a ‘self-liquidation’ on the part of landed society, a means by which they became ‘moving targets’ for reformers and radicals. But seen through the activities of the Country Landowners Association, a pressure group established in 1907 to defend the interests of the old elite, the group response of landowners was far more positive. The CLA became a mediating point for landed politics within which the aristocracy and the gentry could discuss the problems they faced, formulate new ideas surrounding the function of landownership and become an important player in debates with government over the future of agriculture. The CLA represented a new definition of the meaning of ‘aristocracy’, one far more focused agricultural improvement, seeking out popular support for democratic control and positing themselves as the protectors of nationhood. In this way the CLA, and other landed groups, fit neatly into broader European and global perspectives on nobility, recently formulated by Ewald Frie, of ‘noble ways and democratic means.’
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2016
Event11th European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC 2016) - Valencia, Spain
Duration: 30 Mar 2016 → …


Conference11th European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC 2016)
Period30/03/16 → …


  • Landownership
  • Country Landowners Association
  • Land Sales
  • Gentry
  • Aristocracy
  • Pressure Groups


Dive into the research topics of 'England Changing Hands: Land Sales in England 1918-21, the Country Landowners Association and the decline of landed society: a European perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this