Lawrence Stone

From the Time of Shakespeare to Dickens, the Average English Husband Had Casual Sex with Servants at Will and Left His Wife by "moving on" to the next county

Lawrence Stone (4 December 1919 – 16 June 1999)


Was an English historian of early modern Britain. He is noted for his work on the English Civil War and the history of marriage, families and the aristocracy.



He was born in Epsom, Surrey and received his education at Charterhouse School (1933–1938), the Sorbonne (1938) and at Oxford (1938–1940 & 1945–1946), where he was an undergraduate of Christ Church College, Oxford.

He was a lecturer at University College, Oxford from 1947 to 1950, and a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, from 1953 to 1963.

During World War II, Stone served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a lieutenant.

In 1963, Stone became Dodge Professor of history at Princeton University until 1990. He often reviewed for the New York Review of Books. His son is documentary filmmaker Robert Stone. Other notable relatives include Alex Stone, also an academic historian, currently residing in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Storm over the gentry

Stone began as a medievalist, and his first book was the volume on medieval sculpture in Britain for what is now the "Yale History of Art" series. He was a bold choice by the series editor, Nicholas Pevsner, but the book was well received.

A 1948 article[1] was Stone's earliest ventures in quantitative study of the rise of the gentry and decline of the aristocracy along the lines that his mentor R.H. Tawney had suggested in 1941. He concluded there was a major economic crisis for the nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries. Stone's argument was marred by methodological mistakes and he came under heavy attack from Hugh Trevor-Roper and others. Christopher Thompson, for example, showed that the peerage's real income was higher in 1602 than in 1534 and grew substantially by 1641. Many other scholars entered the fray and the issue became a central theme of English historiography.

Stone in 1970 summed up the causes of the English Revolution by stressing three factors: the Crown's failure to gain an army or a bureaucracy; the relative rise of the gentry in terms of status, wealth, education, administrative experience, group identity, and political self-confidence; and the spread of Puritanism. Rabb notes that "few contemporary Stuart historians would argue with Stone's assessment.


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