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Gilded Youth Reviews

Gilded Youth by James Brooke-Smith

Gilded Youth

Privilege, Rebellion and the British Public School

James Brooke-Smith

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Reaktion Books
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication date: 11 Feb 2019
ISBN: 9781789140668

The British public school is an iconic institution, a training ground for the ruling elite and a symbol of national identity and tradition. But beyond the elegant architecture and evergreen playing fields is a turbulent history of teenage rebellion, sexual dissidence, and political radicalism.

3 stars out of 5
A.N. Wilson
9 Apr 2019

"The oddness of the British education system"

There are plenty of successful politicians, academics, lawyers and others in Britain today under the age of fifty, who went to state schools. What one suspects, however, is that most of them came from successful professional backgrounds and that, since the introduction of comprehensive education, the number of working-class children entering the medical profession, or becoming engineers, or journalists, has gone down. Whether that is the fault of parents who pay to have their children privately educated, or of unsuccessful egalitarian educational theory, or of politicians, or all three, James Brooke-Smith does not tell us.


3 stars out of 5
6 Apr 2019

"From Shelley to dandies to Orwell (perhaps) … public schools have produced rebels as well as shoring up elitism"

A glance at Brooke-Smith’s bibliography reveals just how widely he has read in the vast literature of the public school – not least the thousands of boys’ school stories that were set in it. If Gilded Youth has a weakness, it’s the fact that its author seems to imagine that all private schools are the same. But relativism affects the public school system as much as any other part of our national life. William Golding, a product of Marlborough grammar school, might have resented the posh boys of Marlborough school, but his near-contemporary and old Marlburian John Betjeman was made just as uncomfortable by the Old Etonians he met at Oxford.