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From Servants of the Empire to Everyday Heroes – The British Honours System in the Twentieth Century - Oxford Scholarship Online
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From Servants of the Empire to Everyday Heroes: The British Honours System in the Twentieth Century

Tobias Harper


In the twentieth century the British Crown appointed around a hundred thousand people, military and civilian, in Britain and the British Empire to honours and titles. For outsiders, and sometimes recipients too, these jumbles of letters are tantalizingly confusing: OM, MBE, GCVO, CH, KB, or CBE. Throughout the century this system expanded to include more different kinds of people, while also shrinking in its imperial scope with the declining empire. Through these dual processes this profoundly hierarchical system underwent a seemingly counter-intuitive change: it democratized. Why and how did ... More

Keywords: honours system, British honours system, democratization, decolonization, British Empire, Order of the British Empire, knighthood, damehood, political history, social history

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2020 Print ISBN-13: 9780198841180
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2020 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198841180.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Tobias Harper, author
Assistant Professor of History, Arizona State University