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For English read British which is not to quibble with the title but, as Jim Ring himself explains, ‘During the period on which this book focuses, it was the custom – in the words of a Scot – ”to let the part – the larger part – speak for the whole.” Those countries which received them – France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and above all Switzerland – all talked of the English, and the presence of the English in the Alps was precisely so described. To use the term British would thus have been an anachronism.’
The nineteenth century will forever be associated with the growth of the British Empire, but nearer home there was a quieter conquest taking place. Gradually the English were taking over the Alps, scaling their peaks, driving railways through them, and introducing both winter sports and those quintessential English institutions – tea, baths, lawn tennis and churches – to remote mountain villages.
Jim Ring tells the remarkable story of the English love affair with the Alps, from its beginnings with the Romantic movement, when poets such as Byron and Shelly wrote of the mountains with awed delight, through the great days of the 1850s and 1860s and the formation of the Alpine Club, to the inter-war years when the English assured the future prosperity of the alpine resorts by virtually inventing and then popularizing downhill-skiing.
Part history, part biography, How the English made the Alps brings the characters – the artists, the scientists, the gentleman-adventurers, the invalids, the aristocrats, eccentrics and mountain-scramblers – vividly to life.
‘Jim Rings’s book cannot be bettered.’ Daily Mail
‘Fascinating’ Stephen Venables, Daily Telegraph
‘Evocative and entertaining’ Financial Times
‘A comprehensive, well-written account of a fascinating subject’ Guardian
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