Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

The great British social mobility myth


'Intensely readable... A stimulating and necessary redress' David Kynaston, Spectator

Politicians say social mobility is real... this book proves otherwise.

From servants' children who became clerks in Victorian Britain, to managers made redundant by the 2008 financial crash, travelling up or down the social ladder has been a fact of British life for more than a century.

Drawing on hundreds of personal stories, Snakes and Ladders tells the hidden history of how people have really experienced that social mobility in both directions. It shows how a powerful elite on the top rungs have clung to their perch, as well as introducing us to the unsung heroes who created more room at the top. As we face political crisis after crisis, Snakes and Ladders argues that only by creating greater opportunities for everyone to thrive can we ensure the survival of our society.

'A fascinating, important book' Mail on Sunday

'A trove of stories of human hope and disappointment' New Statesman

'Fascinating... A rich and well-observed historical account' Financial Times


  • The great strength of Selina Todd's Snakes and Ladders . . . is the richness of her presentation of it as a lived experience, whether upwards or downwards . . . intensely readable . . . a stimulating and necessary redress
    David Kynaston, Spectator

About the author

Selina Todd

Selina Todd is Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. She grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and was educated at Heaton Manor Comprehensive School and the Universities of Warwick and Sussex. She writes about class, inequality, working-class history, feminism and women’s lives in modern Britain. Her book The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910–2010 was a Sunday Times bestseller and was described by the Observer as ‘A book we badly need’. Based on the voices of working-class people themselves, it charted the history of ordinary workers, housewives, children and pensioners over the turbulent twentieth century.
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