Book Review: The Regency Years, by Robert Morrison

Here’s a short book review for my Regency Readers!

Historical romance fans, the Regency years were LIT. They were tumultuous and complicated, and they set the stage for so many ideas and values that we hold today. In The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern, author Robert Morrison makes the case that modern life started not with the Victorian Era but rather with the Regency, the period between 1811-1820 when Prince George ruled on behalf of his father, King George III.

This book is great at looking at different aspects of Regency life and breaking it down in a way that is accessible (not written in High Academinese) but also meticulous. Some chapters get a bit repetitive but for the most part they are informative and entertaining. Romance readers will be especially interested in the section on “Sexual Pastimes, Pleasures, and Perversities,” which addresses sexual mores including same-sex relationships. 

Morrison talks a great deal about women in society, politics, and the arts, but the book deals in wide scope rather than exhaustive detail about any one person or event. Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Maria Edgeworth get quite a bit of page time, especially Austen. This book name drops an incredible number of people, so I suspect that any reader who is also a Regency fan is going to be annoyed that their favorite person didn’t get enough attention. I was deeply annoyed with the lack of attention to Anne Radcliffe before I realized that most of her work, including The Mysteries of Udolpho, were written just prior to the Regency. So, I learned something today (and was forced to adjust this grade up accordingly!). If you know of a historical personage from the Regency Era, they probably appear in this book,

History nerds, I highly recommend this book. I’ve read a lot about the Regency but I still learned a great deal and I was entertained as well. On the other hand, if you pick it up looking for a lot of information about a specific person, place, or event, you probably won’t find it here given how quickly the author moves from topic to topic. This is a great overview that puts the Regency period into a broader historical perspective. If all these people could survive the Regency years, surely we can get through the rest of 2020!

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