Study Reveals Hereditary Peers In UK House Of Lords 300 Times More Likely To Be Influential

Research shows aristocratic influence in Britain has surged over 150 years, defying popular beliefs.

      A photo a high-end mansion on the countryside. British aristocracy has had a bigger influence than ever in a new study. (TIM ALEX/UNSPLASHED)

Analysis shows that hereditary peers in the House of Lords – those who inherit the title from their mother or father – are almost 300 times more likely than non-aristocrats to be listed in a book recording the lives of influential people.


Aristocrats have become more influential in British society over the past 150 years, a new study has revealed.


A photograph of a man sitting on a pile of coins. Studies have found that aristocrats are more powerful than ever. (MATHIEU STERN/UNSPLASHED)


This marks an increase since the 1800s, demonstrating that aristocratic influence has grown rather than waned over the decades, contrary to popular belief.


Researchers from London South Bank University studied the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which contains posthumous entries on tens of thousands of people considered to have significantly shaped life in Britain.


From this, they recorded the number of hereditary peers who died and were then listed in the reference book – and compared this to the total number of aristocrats who died.


They then did a similar calculation for the whole population, which told them how likely it was for an aristocrat and a non-aristocrat to be listed as ‘influential’.


Results, published by the British Sociological Association, revealed that one in eight aristocrats who died in the years 2008 – 2018 were added to the reference book.


“It is common currency amongst historians and the wider public that the British aristocracy are a fallen group whose wealth, power, and status have diminished so substantially that they have become entirely marginal to British life,” said study co-leader Dr. Julien Morton about the history of aristocracy.


In contrast, just one in 2,343 people from the general population were added, meaning aristocrats were 292 times more likely to feature.


A similar comparison for 1858 – 1867 found that the difference was smaller, with aristocrats 221 times more likely to feature.

The researchers said there could be any number of reason for these results – including aristocrats using their wealth or “connections to old boys’ networks” to get ahead.


A photo of a man and a woman at a formal party. Aristocrats have had the most influence in society. (COTTONBRO STUDIO/PEXELS)


“What can explain these results? It could be the aristocrats’ historical closeness to political power,” said Dr. Matthew Bond, a study co-leader along with Dr. Morton. “It could be that they are using connections to old boys’ networks.”


Dr. Bond also highlighted that the results showed there was even an aristocratic advantage within the group of aristocrats.


“The higher ranking the aristocrats, the more likely they were to be listed in the reference book,” he explained.


Dukes for instance were more than twice as likely to feature in the reference book than barons.


The researchers used the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to carry out their study as aristocrats earned their entries by their actions rather than being automatically included.


“There are no real attempts to measure status of elite groups over time by historians, and so the use of something like the ODNB becomes particularly powerful and important,” said Dr. Bond about the evolution of aristocracy. “There is a higher bar of entry for the ODNB, higher than for Who’s Who, where, for example, aristocrats are automatically included.”


The team balanced their study by only calculating the number of people who died over the age of 35, in order to avoid the large number of 19th-century child deaths distorting the findings.


They also discounted aristocrats who were likely to have received their titles as rewards for achievements prior to becoming a member of the hereditary aristocracy.


“This is because they could not have benefited from advantage the title bestowed,” said Dr. Morton.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker