The Regency Era is a hot topic right now, especially with the highly popular Netflix series, Bridgerton making waves with audiences. So, of course, there will be a high enthusiasm for regency romances, from the classics (like Jane Austen) to the contemporary authors (like Alyssa Cole and Julia Quinn).
But haven’t you ever wonder what the Regency era really was like? Want to discover the characteristics, the personalities and the momentous occasions that made this era just so memorable? If watching Bridgerton made you want to become an amateur historian of the Regency, here are some great book reccommendations to help you get started:
Note: All links will lead to the book’s StoryGraph listing entry.
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye
With a wealth of details about Jane Austen’s life and times, this volume brings to life the world of her novels. Austen scholar Deirdre Le Faye first gives an overview of the period, from foreign affairs to social ranks, from fashion to sanitation. She goes on to consider each novel individually. (Credit: Frances Lincoln)
Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson
From 1810 to 1820, while his father, King George III, declined into madness at Windsor, besieged by nightmares of England sinking into the sea, George, the Prince of Wales, served as Regent, creating an epoch in England now known as the Regency Period.
This was the age of the opulent interiors of the prince’s palace, Carlton House, the grand scenic architecture of his Brighton Pavilion, outlandish fashion, extravagant balls, the age of Austen, Shelley and Lord Byron. Yet as Carolly Erickson’s portrait of this quicksilver age shows, beneath the veneer of the chinoiserie and the grand facades, it was also a time of explosive popular unrest, political radicalism, and the European struggle against Napoleon. Aristocratic ennui and decadence contrasted with economic upheavals in the Midlands. While Caroline, Princess of Wales and wife of the Regent, had flagrant affairs and made outrageous scenes at court, the Luddites made midnight raids on textile machinery and murdered mill owners.
The fascinating personalities both at court and in society—the Royals, Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Hannah Moore and others—provide the dramatic intrigue of this excellent social history, tempered by the larger, dynamic forces of English society in flux. It is history told through the people who made it happen. (Credit: Harper Paperbacks)
Georgian London: Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis
All aboard for a tour of London’s most formative age-the age of love, sex, intellect, art, great ambition and fantastic ruin. Travel back to the Georgian years, a time that changed life expectancy and the expectation of what life could be. Peek into the gilded drawing rooms of the aristocracy, walk down the quiet avenues of the new middle class, and crouch in the damp doorways of the poor. But watch your wallet – tourists make perfect prey for the thriving community of hawkers, prostitutes and scavengers.
Visit, if you dare, the madhouses of Hackney, the workshops of Soho and the mean streets of Cheapside. Have a coffee in the city, check the stock exchange, and pop into St Paul’s to see progress on the new dome.
This book is about the Georgians who called London their home, from dukes and artists to rent boys and hot air balloonists meeting dog-nappers and life-models along the way. It investigates the legacies they left us in architecture and art, science and society, and shows the making of the capital millions know and love today.
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain by Ian Mortimer
This is the age of Jane Austen and the Romantic poets; the paintings of John Constable and the gardens of Humphry Repton; the sartorial elegance of Beau Brummell and the poetic licence of Lord Byron; Britain’s military triumphs at Trafalgar and Waterloo; the threat of revolution and the Peterloo massacre. In the latest volume of his celebrated series of Time Traveller’s Guides, Ian Mortimer turns to what is arguably the most-loved period in British history – the Regency, or Georgian England.
A time of exuberance, thrills, frills and unchecked bad behaviour, it was perhaps the last age of true freedom before the arrival of the stifling world of Victorian morality. At the same time, it was a period of transition that reflected unprecedented social, economic and political change. And like all periods in history, it was an age of many contradictions – where Beethoven’s thundering Fifth Symphony could premier in the same year that saw Jane Austen craft the delicate sensitivities of Persuasion. (Credit: Vintage Publishing)
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer…
From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer’s captivating novels.
As much fun to read as Heyer’s own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester’s essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike. (Credit: Sourcebooks)
Black London: Life Before Emancipation by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina
Gerzina (Vassar Coll.) has written a fascinating account of London blacks, focusing on the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Because of a paucity of sources from blacks themselves, Gerzina had to rely primarily on glimpses through white eyes, especially those of antislavery advocate Granville Sharp. Gerzina is quite adept at culling evidence of a rich, complex black life, with significant interaction (and intermarriage) with the white community. Although subjected to much discrimination, London blacks never suffered as much as their American counterparts. The author rightly concludes that blacks have played an important role in the life of London for much of its history. (Credit: Rutgers University Press)
The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern by Robert Morrison
Around the regent surged a society steeped in contrasts: evangelicalism and hedonism, elegance and brutality, exuberance and despair. The arts flourished at this time with a showcase of extraordinary writers and painters such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the Shelleys, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. Science burgeoned during this decade, too, giving us the steam locomotive and the blueprint for the modern computer.
Yet the dark side of the era was visible in poverty, slavery, pornography, opium, and the gothic imaginings that birthed the novel Frankenstein. With the British military in foreign lands, fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in the United States, the desire for empire and an expanding colonial enterprise gained unstoppable momentum. Exploring these crosscurrents, Robert Morrison illuminates the profound ways this period shaped and indelibly marked the modern world. (Credit: W.W. Norton & Company)
The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery
What was the life of an eighteenth-century British genteel woman like? This lively book, based on letters, diaries, and account books of over one hundred middle class women, transforms our understanding of the position of women in Georgian England.”(Vickery) has found a gold mine in the realm of women’s history: letters and pocket-book diaries kept by the daughters, wives, and mothers of gentlemen of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, allowing us to hear their voices as they experience courtship, marriage, motherhood, and widowing, and to enjoy direct accounts of their domestic and social preoccupations…. Vickery’s book is full of fine details and discoveries.” (Credit: Yale University Press)
Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery
In this brilliant new work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion, bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings, genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper, servants with only a locking box to call their own. (Credit: Yale University Press)
Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Brian Dolan
Drawing on journals, letters, and diaries, the author presents a portrait of the life and times of eighteenth-century women who broke the constraints of a male-dominated society and embarked on an odyssey of self-discovery. (Credit: HarperCollins)