The Gentry is a history of England told through its families. This website contains family trees, a few maps and many images illustrating some of the background to the twelve families who carry the story of England in the book.

Read a sample chapter about Sir John Oglander, the 17th-century squire of Nunwell in the Isle of Wight, his life and family, his dreams and ambitions and the tragedies that struck him....

1710s–1750s The Lascelles, Barbados and London

The Lascelles

The early 18th century was the moment when the gentry, or some of them, stepped out on to a new global stage. In these Whig families, the possibilities of the Atlantic began to look attractive, the theatre in which they could look to create or re-create their destinies on the slave-powered plantations of the Caribbean and the seaboard of continental America.

 The change in scale meant that the questions in play also evolved. What happened to inherited gentry ideas of gentlemanliness, neighbourliness, honour and ‘worth’ when exposed to the competitive, often corrupt and brutal conditions of Atlantic business networks? What became of honesty, directness and ‘community’ when business often required rather different qualities? Or of family relationships when they became the structure for a family business? How malleable were these gentry principles? Could the gentleman transform himself into the global citizen?

More than any other family in England the Lascelles dipped their ladle deep into the North Atlantic slave and sugar system, emerging from it brutalized but vastly rich.