Coke of Norfolk (1754-1842): A Biography

Coke of Norfolk (1754-1842): A Biography

Susanna Wade Martins


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Boydell Press



First modern biography of Thomas William Coke, first earl of Leicester, who revolutionised agricultural practices in the late eighteenth century.
Thomas William Coke ("Coke of Norfolk") (1754-1842) is best known as one of the main promoters of the improved farming of the "Agricultural Revolution". He was also a county MP for over forty years between 1776 and 1832; and the owner of one of the finest palladian mansions in Britain, and by far, the largest estate in Norfolk at Holkham Hall. A friend of Charles James Fox, he moved in the highest Whig social circles and lavishly entertained distinguished friends from both political and academic fields who came to Holkham for its splendid library, works of art and antiquities as well as the game coverts. A charismatic figure, he was an outspoken critic of Britain's war against the Americans in their fight for independence which made him friends who visited and corresponded across the Atlantic.
Despite his importance, both locally and nationally, there has been no full scale biography of him for a hundred years - a gap which this book sets out to address. It sets his agricultural achievements in a wider context, and places Coke himself in his milieu, as one of a small circle of landed grandees who were of major influence during a period of political turbulence and agricultural change. The author also examines Coke's reputation as a "patriot".

Dr SUSANNA WADE MARTINS is Honorary Research Fellow, School of History, University of East Anglia.


15 colour, 9 black and white, 5 line illustrations
240 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Hardback, 9781843834267, February 2009
Paperback, 9781843835318, February 2010
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Foreword; The Earl of Leicester
Prologue; To begin at the end; the final journey
The Making of a Patriot; Coke's early years
Early Parliamentary Career, 1776-1783
Life in Norfolk and London, 1776-c.1800
Interlude: A Patriotic Festival; celebrations for the centenary of the Glorious Revolution
Coke, The Patriotic Landlord
'The fairest where many are fair' Coke, the practical farmer
The road to reform; Coke's later parliamentary career
'Open House', Holkham and its visitors
Second Marriage and Later Years, 1800-1842
Epilogue The Gentleman Patriot


A revealing biography of one of the eighteenth century's foremost landowners. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, vol. 128, no. 533, August 2013

(The author) is steeped in the history of rural society in Norfolk and she brings this background to the present study. The research base is impressive and Wade-Martins is to be congratulated for producing an eminently readable and wide-ranging biography. THE LOCAL HISTORIAN
Susanna Wade Martin's biography of Sir Thomas Coke does what any good biography should do. It provides a detailed description of his life, his family background, his education and the influences that shaped his politics and his world view. AGRICULTURAL HISTORY REVIEW
This biography does Thomas Coke full justice, in style as well as in content. It is excellently illustrated with colour and monochrome plates with helpful, discursive captions and specially drawn maps and diagrams. Coke's memory is well-served by this first rate piece of work. JOURNAL OF RURAL HISTORY
Splendid biography. NORFOLK ARCHAEOLOGY
(A) well-researched new book based on the family archives at Holkham. This new book is a good, scholarly tribute to a remarkable man. COUNTRY LIFE Shortlisted for the "Biography" category in the EDP-Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards 2009.

Shortlisted for the New Angle Prize for Literature 2009.

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