David Granville reviews Who Owns Britain by Kevin Cahill, Canongate Books, £25 hbk
KEVIN CAHILL’S Who Owns Britain: the hidden facts behind landownership in the UK and Ireland is exactly the sort of book that Irish Democrat readers could be hoping to find in their stocking this Xmas.
Although the conflation of Ireland with Britain in the title is irritating, this veritable who’s who of the fat cats and of these islands and their land assets is packed with fascinating detail and insights into the continuing social, political and economic importance of land ownership on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The book’s genesis lies in the Sunday Times Rich List, for which Cahill was the original researcher, and it took him thirteen years to complete his impressive study.
The book begins with a number of insightful general essays on the history of land ownership in Britain and Ireland -- focusing on key players like the royals, major institutional holdings, including the Ministry of Defence to the established Church, through to the fag ends of aristocracy.
It also includes a county-by-county breakdown, comparing the top ten owners in 2001 with the results of the 1872 land owners return, and a series of ‘land lists’ league tables identifying the top 50 landowners based on acreage and land value.
Never mind the latest shenanigans of the royals and their hangers on, there’s far more here to get worked up about.
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