Versatile Mr. Sinclair is no parvenu in the field of social history (he has examined American prohibition and feminism) although he is perhaps better known as a novelist. This is as much history as social history and even though the main outlines are sometimes blurred, there's a fine use of lesser known and well chosen sources to amplify all the fine distinctions of this world of distinction, pride and privilege. In chronological intervals, Mr. Sinclair traces the ever diminishing role of the aristocracy from before World War I when the British upheld their power via politics while the European aristocracy only retained its prestige; through its slow death between wars (industrialism, technocracy, etc.): to the relationship of the aristocracy to fascism (""allied by circumstance, opposed by nature"") and communism; to its status after the decimating World War II when one nobleman forecast ""the peace will be appalling for you all."" Except in Spain where the aristocrats are affiliated with banking interests and to a degree in France where de Gaulle protects their interests. Closing chapters on aspects of the aristocrat have their unfailing appeal--on upbringing and pedigree and blood sports and influence (from fashion to politics). But then there was the man who observed that the ruling classes are really just folks, ""the same, only a bit out of perspective."" Sinclair, a far more serious observer than our social registrars Birmingham, Amory, et al., has assessed this one world of diminishing birthrights and bloodlines astutely, sometimes abrasively, and the work is a substantial contribution.