The Regency Years

During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern

Robert Morrison (Author)


A surprising and lively history of an overlooked era that brought the modern world of art, culture, and science decisively into view.

The Victorians are often credited with ushering in our current era, yet the seeds of change were planted in the years before. The Regency (1811–1820) began when the profligate Prince of Wales—the future king George IV—replaced his insane father, George III, as Britain’s ruler.

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.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • Forthcoming April 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24905-7
  • 6.4 × 9.6 in / 416 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“The Prince Regent…ruled over a period of extraordinary creativity and it is that progressive cultural legacy that Mr. Morrison commends to contemporary Britain and the rest of the world.” — Ruth Scurr, Wall Street Journal

“Delightful…Morrison’s lively and engaging study not only illuminates these many and rapid changes, but convincingly argues that ‘its many legacies are still all around us.’” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Regency Years reads like a romance novel of its period without the novel but makes an entertaining nonfiction read with superior prose and dialogue.” — Robert Davis, New York Journal of Books

“Morrison’s well annotated and engagingly anecdotal book is a worthy romp through one of the most licentious, libertarian and obviously paradoxical decades in British history.” — Eve Zibart, Book Page

“Morrison gathers a broad range of topics into a strong, cohesive and fast moving narrative. An excellent introduction for readers new to the period and a fresh take for Regency enthusiasts.” — Booklist

“An intriguing discussion on the finer and more fascinating aspects of the Regency period that will appeal to history buffs.” — Library Journal

“A lively new chronicle brings crisp focus to a significant decade in British history and culture…Morrison expertly encapsulates the brief, radical trends and movements of this era.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Nobody knows more about this extraordinary, enthralling decade in British history than Robert Morrison. In The Regency Years he tells its story with a spirit and a panache that Regency writers like Lord Byron, or the pioneering sports journalist Pierce Egan, or the courtesan, memoirist, and fashionista Harriette Wilson might envy themselves. Twenty-first-century readers continue to be informed with wearisome regularity that Jane Austen and her novels were the products of a tranquil and stable and even slightly tedious world. Morrison offers indisputable evidence to the contrary, and in his pages readers will learn new things about the turbulence and the excitement, the restlessness and the radical energies of Austen’s historical moment. The Regency Years is a triumph of historical storytelling.” — Deidre Lynch, author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History

The Regency Years investigates actors, artists, and prizefighters; heroes, criminals, harlots, and statesmen. It deals with—among other things—books, battles, and scientific discoveries. Its unexpected conjunctions both illuminate a momentous decade of the early nineteenth century and shed unexpected light on our own time. Readers of this brilliant book will enjoy a rich experience, full of memorable surprises.” — Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, University of Virginia

“Robert Morrison is my ideal of what a scholar should be—lively and interesting, he makes the past relevant to today.” — David Morrell, author of the Thomas and Emily De Quincey trilogy

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