The Dark Days of Georgian Britain – a Guest Post by James Hobson

I am delighted to have James Hobson, author and former history teacher, as guest writer at Regency Explorer. In his book, “Dark Days of Georgian Britain. Rethinking the Regency”, James explores the lives of the powerless and the challenges they faced. He writes about corruption in government and elections, “bread or blood” rioting, the political discontent felt and the revolutionaries involved. It’s a treat for me to present James’s work about a little discussed field of research:

Rethinking the Regency: A description of terrible times and the people who had the courage to fight back

If you write a book with the expression “Dark Days” in the title, then it might be a good idea to reassure people that the book is not as bleak as it sounds. Well, I am afraid I can’t.

People seem to have forgotten, or do not know, that the period around the Napoleonic wars was one of the most appalling in British history. When there is a “worst year in British history competition”, 1816 is the latest year to be mentioned, and all the other competitors – like 1648 or 1347- are periods of epidemic disease or fratricidal civil war.

At first it made me angry that nobody had written very much about this aspect of the Regency and then it made me very happy. Continue reading

Wilkes, Sue: Regency Spies: Secret Histories of Britain’s Rebels and Revolutionaries

Wilkes, Sue

Regency Spies: Secret Histories of Britain’s Rebels and Revolutionaries

Pen and Sword, 2016

An adorable book about the period when democracy and liberty were still regarded as dubious in Europe. Sue Wilkes reveals the shadowy world of Britain’s spies, rebels and secret societies from the late 1780s until 1820.
I am delighted she agreed to write an insightful guest post about the secret means of communication used by spies in the late 18th century. You can read “Burn after Reading: Spying Secrets of the Regency Period – Guest Post by Sue Wilkes” here.


Sylvanus U.: The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle

Sylvanus Urban

The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle. From January to June 1831, Volume CI

John Nicols and son, 1831.

Dive into the past with this compilation of The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle. Volume CI is a great source to verify details of the early 1830ies.There are many more volumes, as the magazine was founded in 1731 and ran for about 200 years. The editor’s name is the pen name of the magazine’s founder, Edward Cave, and kept by  successing editors. You can read digital versions at the Internet Archive.

It was helpful for my research for the post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Lyme Park – An Austen Drama in its Own Right“.

The History of Parliament

The History of Parliament. British political, social and local history.



This is a brilliant source if you are doing research on a historical person. This person must have been an MP, of course.

The years 1790-1820 feature 2,143 21,000 biographies. Besides the vita the data includes family background and offices held.

The History of Parliament is a research project creating a comprehensive account of parliamentary politics in England, today covering ten periods and 21,000 biographies. This is a website to get lost in.

I used this source to write  – for example – my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Lyme Park – an Austen Drama in its Own Right.

Great Britain House of Lords: Journals of the House of Lords

Great Britain House of Lords

Journals of the House of Lords, Beginning Anno Quadragesimo Primo Georgii Terzii, 1801, Vol. 43

Great Britain House of Lords


The Journals of the House of Lords are the minute books of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament. The journals cover the period from 1507 to today.

I used Vol. 43 to check some details for my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Anna-Maria Hunt and the Rescue of Lanhydrock House”.

You can read Vol. 43 online for free at google books here.


Zamoyski, A.: Rites of Peace

Zamoyski , Adam

Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

HarperPress, 2012

Regency enthusiasts worth their salt should know a thing or two about The Congress of Vienna, the major political event of 1814/1815. The congress is a very complex topic, and many books about it give you the headache (especially some by German scholars). Therefore, I was very happy when I stumbled upon Adam Zamoyski’s “Rites Of Peace”. The author does provide plenty of detailed information on diplomatic aspects, but he tells the story well. And he doesn’t leave out the juicy aspects of the congress: There are greed, lust, blackmailing, bribery and sex. Diplomats send their mistresses to spy on foreign delegations. Politicians write to their spouses at home about how much they abhor the party-live and the easy women of Vienna, and then dash off to enjoy both. Delegates don’t even try to pretend being in Vienna for politics and diplomacy. I will never again be able to consider a political conference a demure affair.

Mr Zamoyski selected information from secret political reports, private diaries, letters and personal reminiscences and turned them into a very readable account of an event that shaped Europe. You get a broad picture of life in Vienna in the years 1814 and 1815 and a good impression of the lavish decorations of its festivities.

“Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna” was a great source for “What Would Have Been Your Role at the Congress of Vienna 1814/1815?“.

Conway, Stephen: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham

Conway, Stephen (editor)

The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham

University of London, Athlone Press, 1988.

If you should ever have a lot of time to spend on reading, why not trying some philosophy? Mr Conway did a great job in compiling the enormous amount of Jeremy Bentham’s letters. The work features several volumes and offers an inside view into progressive thinking in the Regency period.

The book was one of the sources for my post Writer’s Travel Guide: Forde Abbey.

Drower, G.: Heligoland: The True Story of German Bight and the Island the Britain Forgot

Drower, George

Heligoland: The True Story of German Bight and the Island the Britain Forgot

The History Press, 2002

The focus of the book is on the eras after the Regency, but the book nevertheless excellently tells the story how Heligoland became England smallest colony in 1807.

I found the book helpful for writing my post “Jane Austen, the Captain and the Smugglers of a Tiny Island“.

Wade Martins, S.: Coke of Norfolk

Wade Martins, Susanna

Coke of Norfolk (1754-1842): A Biography

Boydell & Brewer Inc., 2010

Ms Wade Martins is the expert on Holkham Hall’s famous Thomas William Coke. The focus of the book is on the role of Thomas William Coke as a Whig country gentleman and a parliamentarian. Mr Coke’s motto was “live and let live” and this was mirrored in his believe in the Whig values of liberty. For her research Ms Wade Martin was granted access to documents at Holkham Hall, where Mr. Coke lived.

The book was helpful for my research for the post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Holkham Hall“.

Alger, G. / Spence, P.: Yorke, Henry Redhead (1772–1813)

Alger, G. / rev. Spence, Peter

‘Yorke, Henry Redhead (1772–1813)’ in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Oxford University Press, 2004.


Henry Yorke sympathised with radical political ideas. Edward Sheldon Constable, who had  inherited Burton Constable Hall, was a member of the Grand Jury in a trial against him.

The article was helpful for verifying some details for my post “Writer’s Travel Guide: Burton Constable Hall”.