When you hear the term "British antiques," I think it somehow evokes an image of an aristocratic hobby .

The world of fine British antiques owes its growth to the demand and patronage of the British aristocracy, who reached the height of their prosperity in the 19th century.

In the early 20th century, British aristocracy began to decline, and antique items were also affected by the changing times.

19th century British aristocracy

Until around the 19th century, many countries in Europe, including Britain, were ruled by aristocrats.
However, following the bourgeois revolution (civil revolution) typified by the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, royalty and aristocracy throughout Europe gradually declined.

In Britain, there were changes such as the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy due to bourgeois revolutions such as the Puritan Revolution in the 17th century, but the power of royalty and aristocracy remained relatively strong even in the 19th century, and it is said that fewer than 1,000 titled aristocrats exclusively owned about half of the country's land area.

At that time, Britain was one of the first countries to successfully carry out the Industrial Revolution, and its industrial power overwhelmed other countries, earning it the title of "the world's factory." It was also the country's most prosperous period, with colonies all over the world, including India.

In the 19th century, British aristocrats possessed assets far greater than those of their European counterparts.

The decline of the English aristocracy

The British aristocracy, once at the height of their prosperity, gradually began to decline in the midst of political class struggle towards the end of the 19th century as the middle class and workers gained power after the Industrial Revolution.

As a result of the policies of the Liberal Party government in 1894, the estates of large landowners, which had previously been exempt from inheritance tax, were subject to an 8% inheritance tax, and the tax rate increased over time, reaching 40% by 1919.

The final blow was the First World War of 1914-18.
Due to the spirit of "noblesse oblige" that has existed since the Middle Ages, when war broke out many officers of the aristocratic class rushed to the battlefield and lost their lives.
It is estimated that one in five aristocratic officers who served in World War I lost their lives.

Although Britain emerged as a victorious nation in World War I, many aristocrats, particularly those whose heads or heirs had been killed in battle, lost their assets due to high inheritance taxes of up to 40%.

Compared to other European countries, the power and wealth of the aristocracy was maintained in Britain, but in 1924, six years after the end of the war, the working-class party, the Labour Party, came to power as a single party, and the aristocracy began to rapidly decline.

The British television drama series "Downton Abbey," which is also broadcast in Japan on NHK, is set in the turbulent period of the British aristocracy from 1912 to 1925.

Antiques after the decline of the aristocracy

The term "antique" is generally defined as an item of art that is more than 100 years old.

It is now 2024, and items made after the decline of British aristocracy following World War I are slowly becoming antiques.
From around 1920, items with commercial or industrial design qualities, such as "Art Deco," became popular, and came to be classified as "antiques."
The center of Art Deco fashion shifted from Europe to America, and American-made products became the norm.

As crafts from these democratic eras come to meet the definition of antiques, the image of Western antiques as an aristocratic hobby may gradually change in the future.


Western antiques, such as British antiques, have a strong image of aristocratic tastes, but gradually, items made after the decline of aristocratic society have begun to meet the standard of being "100 years old."

However, the definition of "over 100 years" itself has only become common due to the 1934 U.S. Tariff Act, which states that "import duties are not imposed on art works that are over 100 years old," and in reality, there is no clear definition of this.

Without being too caught up in definitions such as words, eras, or styles, we want to ensure that these beautiful crafts that have been created and passed down through generations for a long time are passed down to the next generation.