I am working on my next book, which is requiring me to take a deeper look into Regency Era Britain. As a long-standing Austenite and reader of modern day Regency romances (many of which are VERY well researched in terms of mores, manners, and dress) I have had the tendency to look at 1811-1820 Britain as an oasis of awesome dresses and good breeding. I have never really dug into the meaty history of the early ninetieth century.
Boy, have I been missing out!
The world was, for lack of a better adjective, in turmoil and Britain was roiling right along with the rest of the planet. The Napoleonic wars were tearing Europe to pieces and draining the British economy and population, and Latin America was rebelling successfully against Spain and Portugal, even as Spain and Portugal were rebelling successfully against the French (with British aid). The Industrial Revolution was changing the world and the Luddites were fighting to make humanity as important as machines in the new age. Literature was producing some of the finest writers even known, and science was leaping ahead in breathtaking bounds. England was embracing gas lighting and harnessing the power of steam. At the same time, most of the population of the UK would know nothing but poverty, illness, crime, and social inequality for most of their short and brutal lives.
It wasn’t was the genteel tea-sipping and romantic era I had thought it to be. Sure the romanticism was booming, but it was the kind of romantic whereof dying due to unrequited love was as appealing as marrying Mr. Darcy. Meanwhile, the ‘vulgar’ people (AKA the poor) were getting to romantically die from a lack of food and sanitation.
And OMG the autobiographies of successful courtesans published in the time period! The sex scandals! The murders!
No wonder this time period holds so many historians and history buffs in thrall; it’s a mess. It will never burden the reader with tepid events, boredom, or ennui.