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....

1730s–1790s The Pinckneys, South Carolina and London

The Pinckneys

In November 1739, Eliza Lucas Pinckney was six weeks short of her 17th birthday. Her father had been forced to leave the family plantation at Wappoo, just west of Charles Town, South Carolina, for military duties in the Caribbean. Eliza’s withdrawn and sickly mother was not capable of much. So her father left Eliza in charge, not only of the plantation at Wappoo with its twenty slaves, but more than 3,000 other acres widely distributed across the colony, all to be reached by sea.

She showed no fear. ‘The part of the world I now inhabit,’ as she wrote to her brother in England,

abounds with wild fowl. Venison and fish, Beef, veal and mutton, are here in much greater perfection than in the Islands, tho’ not equal to that in England – but their pork exceeds any I ever tasted anywhere. The Turkeys extreamly fine, especially the wild, and indeed all their poultry is exceeding good, and peaches, Nectrins, and mellons of all sorts extreamly fine and in profusion, and their Oranges exceed any I ever tasted in the West Indies or from Spain or Portugal.

If the frontier was no more than a day’s ride away to the west, and the threat of Indian wars never far absent, if the four months of summer were ‘extreamly disagreeable, excessive hott, much thunder and lightening and muskatoes and sand flies in abundance’, none of this diminished the overwhelming sense of vitality which coloured the teenage Eliza Lucas’s world.