Arcadia: The Dream of Perfection in Renaissance England

Published by Harper Perennial on 19th February 2009

Was our country once a better place? Has modernisation destroyed as much as it has improved? And can we see in an earlier Britain a way of living, an Arcadia, whcih now seems both ideal and remote?

In 16th- and 17th-century England the changes of an approaching modernity accelerated – the new mercantile, individualist world increasingly clashed with the communal and chivalric ideals of the old. To tell this story from the 1520s to the 1640s, Adam Nicolson takes a single great family, the Earls of Pembroke, their wives, children, estates, tenants and allies, and follows their high and glamorous trajectory across three generateions of change, nostalgia, ambition, resistance and war.

A rich, fascinating depiction of a family – and a country – on the hinge of the medieval and the modern, Adam Nicolson explores a world in transition during the period when the world which we have lost turned into the world it has now become.