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About the book
  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781785150890
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $40.00


One Family, a Cup of Tea and the Company that Took On the World

A panoramic new history of Britain over the last two hundred years as told through the story of one extraordinary company.

A panoramic new history of Britain over the last two hundred years as told through the story of one extraordinary company.

For over a century, the Lyons company was everywhere. Its corner houses were on every high road, its ice cream in every freezer, its tea in every cup. The story of Lyons is the story of Britain, and of Britishness - of the virtue of hard work, perseverance and an indomitable spirit. But the Lyons story also has a dark side. It’s the story of Empire, and above all else, the story of Britain today.

In the early 1800s the Gluckstein family escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe and made their way to England, and to the East End of London, at that time a notorious slum, and a world of criminal enterprise. There they started a small tobacco company, that grew over the decades to become one of the largest companies in the world.

Legacy tells the story of the rise and fall of one of the most influential families and companies in British history against the backdrop of the rise and fall of Imperial power. This is sweeping yet intimate work of history in the mould of The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal or East West Street by Philippe Sands. It's also a revelatory new look at Britain's history and its place in the world from the bestselling author of Hanns and Rudolf and The House by the Lake.

  • Pub date: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781785150890
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $40.00

About the Author

Thomas Harding

Thomas Harding is an author and journalist who has written for the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, among other publications. He co-founded a television station in Oxford, England, and for many years was an award-winning documentary maker. He also ran a local newspaper in West Virginia, winning the West Virginia Association of Justice’s Journalist of the Year Award, before moving back to England in 2011, where he now lives with his family. He is the author of Hanns and Rudolf, a Sunday Times bestseller and winner of the JQ-Wingate Prize; the internationally acclaimed Kadian Journal: A Father’s Story; and The House by the Lake, a Costa Biography Award and Orwell Prize nominee.

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Praise for Legacy

“This story of the family behind the Lyons Corner Houses and many other ventures, its rise and its business demise, is endlessly fascinating and hard to put down. I read it all in one sitting, enjoying the colour and grandeur, whilst spitting with fury at how women were kept out of the financial loop. Full of character and characters, this is a tour de force.”

Rabbi Julia Neuberger

“I was riveted: this is a fascinating social history.”

Nigella Lawson

“In this fascinating history of the dynasty that founded and developed J. Lyons & Company, Thomas Harding provides his readers with an illuminating insight into the lives of the founders and their descendants. This is an impressively researched account of one of Britain’s most well known corporations, one which dominated the business scene from the 1920s through to the 1980s. Yet this book is much more than a family saga. Through the lens of the Salmons and Glucksteins, the author provides authoritative accounts of the changing social, economic and political landscape both in Britain and further afield. It is a book to be recommended to all those who are interested in family and business histories and to those who are keen to learn more about the changing face of Britain in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

Anne Kershen

“A magnificent book… what a story this is. Endlessly fascinating.”

Jenni Frazer, Jewish Chronicle

“Five stars. History on a scale at once intimate and grand… extremely readable.”

Francesca Wade, The Telegraph

“Enthralling... fascinating. Nearly half a century on, the Lyons name and Corner Houses have faded, quite forgotten. I dream of them still.”

Anthony Quinn, Observer

“‘A satisfying slab of dynastic history... a brisk, accessible account of how one Anglo-Jewish dynasty provided twentieth-century Britain with the materials it required to imagine itself fondly as a land of cosy comfort.”

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian, 'Book of the Day'

“Written with love and imagination… a masterclass in historical empathy.”

Abigail Green, TLS

“Ably combines his story with British political and social history... [an] affectionate and colourful family history.”

Andrew Hill, Financial Times

“This extraordinarily rich and meticulously researched history of modern Britain is a tour de force. It’s a paean to the immigrant contribution to our nation.”

Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, 'Editor's Choice'

“Legacy is the biography of the extraordinary family who put the respectable teashop on the corner, the hamburger on the high street, plus the cuppa and Ready Brek on your breakfast table... Thomas Harding is a researcher of the first rank. Nobody quite stirs the soup of historical detail like Harding.”

John Lewis-Stempel, Daily Express

“Have a cuppa and enjoy this rich tale of an old favourite... Fascinating… Harding is to be congratulated on this panoramic history of an institution that was as British as Victoria sponge.”

Ian Thomson, Evening Standard

“It’s easy to forget now how the British catering empire Lyons and Company (of Corner House fame) dominated British taste and consumer habits for generations. It was the world’s biggest food retailer for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and its genius lay in the ability of one family to anticipate what British consumers wanted before they knew themselves. Thomas Harding has excavated his own family history. It begins with his ancestor Lehmann Gluckstein arriving in the east end of London as a penniless refugee. It culminates in a business empire that dominated every high street in the country, catering to an emerging middle class that had, for the first time, money in its pocket and wanted to dine out affordably. This is the family that democratised consumer spending and defined British taste for generations. It is an astonishing story, beautifully and lovingly told, of powerful family patriarchs, of love stories and business feuds, of family tragedies and commercial triumphs, and of a rags-to-riches journey through risk, jeopardy and fortitude. It is a rich and telling portrait of the immigrant contribution to the character of Britain. And above all it is a compelling tale of family members, conscious of their foreign origins and outsider status, driven more than anything by their loyalty toward and love for each other.”

Allan Little

“A monumental history of the rise and fall of the Lyons empire… It’s a terrific story and Harding is surely right to describe the Glucksteins and Salmons as “pioneers, democratising luxury and globalising taste”.”

Lewis Jones, The Times

“An affectionate family history, deftly sandwiched in the rise and fall of empires, two world wars, and two centuries of social and political change.”


“A meticulously-researched rags-to-riches tale”

Jewish News

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