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Gilded Youth By James Brooke-Smith

Gilded Youth

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Gilded Youth Summary

Gilded Youth: Privilege, Rebellion and the British Public School by James Brooke-Smith

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. James Brooke-Smith wades into the wilder shores of public-school life over the last three hundred years in Gilded Youth. He uncovers armed mutinies in the late eighteenth century, a Victorian craze for flagellation, dandy-aesthetes of the 1920s, quasi-scientific discourse on masturbation, Communist scares in the 1930s, and the salacious tabloid scandals of the present day.

Drawing on personal experience, extensive research, and public school representations in poetry, school slang, spy films, popular novels, and rock music, Brooke-Smith offers a fresh account of upper-class adolescence in Britain and the role of elite private education in shaping youth culture. He shows how this central British institution has inspired a counterculture of artists, intellectuals, and radicals--from Percy Shelley and George Orwell to Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson--who have rebelled against both the schools themselves and the wider society for which they stand. Written with verve and humor in the tradition of Owen Jones's The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It, this highly original cultural history is an eye-opening leap over the hallowed iron gates of privilege--and perturbation.

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Gilded Youth Reviews

"Gilded Youth is an entertaining but serious study of how public schools came about, their history, and their preeminent position today."--Alex Renton "Country Life"
"[Gilded Youth] comes dripping with liberal guilt. . . . He simply hates the institution and wants it demolished forthwith."--Alex Renton "Private Eye"
"For a scholarly study of the British educational system's upper tier, Gilded Youth is unusually rife with tension. . . . The commitment to impartiality is elegantly set down in a chapter about the 'secret life' of the Victorian schoolboy. . . . Yet it soon becomes clear that he was asked to leave the public school at which he fetched up (Shrewsbury) in his mid-teens, hates the institution that nurtured him like poison, and would like to see its playing fields dug up for cabbages. All this gives these well-researched pages on the theme of public school 'rebellion' an undeniable piquancy."--Alex Renton "Guardian"
"To each icon, its iconoclasts: so goes Brooke-Smith's excellent debut. . . . Few things are so emblematic of Britain as its elite schools and the posh culture that they export. Yet in the face of modern egalitarianism, why so? The key, Brooke-Smith holds, to understanding these self-fashioned bastions of 'organic tradition and national heritage, ' continually 'at the center of national life, ' lies in their own rebels. . . . Gilded Youth is our author's own thorough, thoughtful, and articulate rebellion. Brooke-Smith acknowledges that he has 'chosen to be more one-sided' in his writing and indeed his dislike of public schools, one of which he attended for a time, is evident. But for all his bias, dedicated research abounds. His prose flows with material from novels, government reports, memoirs, and more, and 33 pages of partial bibliography tail the volume. Whatever his convictions, the breadth of his knowledge and the earnestness with which he approaches his subject make Gilded Youth a fantastic read that cannot be dismissed."--Wilson Shugart "Open Letters Review"

About James Brooke-Smith

James Brooke-Smith is associate professor of English literature at the University of Ottawa. His writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, and Public Books.

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Gilded Youth: Privilege, Rebellion and the British Public School by James Brooke-Smith
James Brooke-Smith
Used - Very Good
Reaktion Books
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