Review by CH
This entertaining and adeptly written account traces the story of London’s private members’ clubs from the 18th century to the present day. Dr Seth Alexander Thévoz – historian, investigative journalist, and (since 2013) Librarian of the National Liberal Club in London – guides readers through a private world hidden in plain sight, sharing its secrets, scandals, and subcultures, and dispelling some stereotypes along the way. From early gatherings in coffee- and chocolate houses to the world of P G Wodehouse, this is an absorbing journey that also travels far beyond the confines of the capital, exploring how London clubs were influenced by ideas imported from North America, and how they became centres of power and identity across the British Empire. Amongst a diverse range of topics, we learn about exclusivity and blackballing; the rise of working men’s clubs and female-run salons; economics and internal infrastructure; the impact of the World Wars; and why, of the at least 400 major West End clubs that have existed in London over the years, barely 10 per cent survive today.
Behind Closed Doors: the secret life of London private members’ clubs
Seth Alexander Thévoz