A history of the English public school (what, in the US, we would call a 'private school'), charting the institution and culture of the schools from the 15th century until the 1970s, when the book was written.What a fascinating book. Very dense - both in content (hundreds of years are covered) and information (most of it was almost entirely new to me.) But it was fascinating. The history of the English public school is one of surprising violence (even as late as the 1950s, corporal punishment not the main method of discipline, it was the ONLY one, and beatings were often carried out by prefects. And then there was the bullying) and passion (many boys had intense crushes on boys in their class, and there were periods of rampant sexual activity, often spurred on by the ridiculous paranoia of the headmasters.)The author also traces many of the stereotypical 'upper-class' characteristics as well as several ones we think of as stereotypically British, to the 'total societies' the public schools formed, and the particular environment British upper and middle class boys spent the ages of 8 - 18. In fact, the experience was so intense and so formative that many public school boys became Old Boys when they grew up, unable to leave behind their school days, eternally trapped in a kind of agonized nostalgia.Despite how dense this book was, I really loved the writing style. The author links together evidence from dozens of 'public school genre' novels and autobiographies, as well as correspondence with hundreds of Old Boys from dozens of schools, with a confiding and honest tone.