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Edited by Gervase Jackson-Stops
The English country house was the background for political life, agriculture, sport, social interactions, and, above all, for collecting. The peace at home that Britain has enjoyed for the majority of the past 500 years and the rule of primogeniture has meant the survival of family art collections to a degree unequaled anywhere else in Europe. In many ways the country houses of Britain can be seen as some of the oldest and longest-running museums in the world. The works included come directly from country houses; only in a very few rare cases were objects included which were intimately connected with a house but were no longer there. The resulting assembly shows in a broadly chronological way how these private collections were formed and demonstrates the country house’s role as a vessel of civilization.