A Handbook for Visitors to 1789–1830, by Ian Mortimer — A Review – Austenprose

From the desk of Tracy Hickman: 

Austenesque fiction like The Jane Austen Mission and the BBC TV sequence Misplaced in Austen have entertained Janeites with unbelievable tales about journeying again in time to Austen’s Regency Britain. Whereas I can’t think about being tempted myself, except assured a round-trip ticket, the thought of a digital go to to Austen’s Britain with an skilled tour information who’s a Fellow of the Royal Historic Society, and a author of historic fiction was a chance to not be turned down.

The Lure of the Previous

The Time Traveler’s Information to Regency Britain, the most recent in Dr. Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveler’s Guides, takes the reader on a journey to the previous, with chapters targeted by topic: The Panorama; London; The Individuals; Character; Practicalities; What to Put on; Touring; The place to Keep; What to Eat, Drink and Smoke; Cleanliness, Well being and Drugs; Regulation and Order; and Leisure. The e-book jacket guarantees “that is historical past at its most fun, bodily, visceral—the previous not as one thing to be studied however as lived expertise.” The excerpts that observe spotlight a number of of my favourite stops on the “tour.”

The Panorama 

“This lighting up of coastal cities is one thing new. Within the mid-eighteenth century you’d have seen simply occasional pinpricks of sunshine from the few giant homes close to the coast. Now there are sea-facing city homes with chandeliers burning of their drawing rooms. Even the place these are obscured by curtains or shutters, you might even see the intense lanterns above the entrance doorways. … If you happen to may make a time-lapse movie of the south coast of England at evening between 1789 and 1830 you’ll see tens of 1000’s of lights approaching, and rising brighter, because the coast step by step emerges from the darkness.” (10)


“If you happen to ask a Regency particular person to sum up the spirit of the age, she or he will most likely use the phrase ‘evil’. This isn’t essentially due to any of these issues that we’d condemn as ‘evil’—sexism, racism, childhood mortality, ignorance and violence. All this stuff will be justified within the Recency thoughts as pure and despatched by God. For a lot of, the actual evil is change or, as some individuals name it with horror, ‘innovation’. The introduction of equipment to take males’s jobs is an evil. Chimneys belching smoke are one other evil. The potential for a French-style revolution is a fair higher evil. Threats to the standing of the outdated landowning class are, once more, an evil. Briefly, individuals worry the longer term. As Mary Shelley places it in Frankenstein, ‘nothing is so painful to the human thoughts as an important and sudden change.’” (89)

Cleanliness, Well being, and Drugs

“The good innovation in haircare on this interval is the introduction of hairbrushes. Surprisingly, though garments brushes have been round for hundreds of years, these for the hair are first manufactured by William Kent at his manufacturing facility in Hertfordshire in 1777. Quickly the outlets are stacked with them. An abnormal one with a lacquered picket deal with ought to price you between 2s and 2s 6d. Additionally, you will need to contemplate buying a comb product of horn, ivory, metal or silver (which is able to price between 6d and 2s), a pair of scissors (3s 6d) and maybe a set of curling irons for 1s, with which to form your hair or wig.” (280)

Visuals, Knowledge, and Takeaways 

There are eight pages of shade illustrations, a number of tables and lists with inhabitants knowledge, reference notes, and an index that makes discovering particular info straightforward. The writer concludes with an epilogue titled, “Envoi” with reflections on shocking take-aways from his analysis and a proof of his method to historical past.

“Clearly if you wish to know why a historic determine did one thing, or why somebody reacted in the way in which he did, sure, you want that modern understanding. However in a Time Traveler’s Information I discover myself continually questioning this slender view—that we must always solely decide individuals by their very own values—by exposing these values themselves to judgement… It’s all very effectively making finely balanced educational factors about modern values but when we neglect the impression on individuals’s lives, we’re not presenting the complete image. What’s extra, we’re failing in our public obligations as historians, by way of inadequately explaining to individuals how their ancestors lived and died. And if we fail in that, we fail altogether.” (366)

That is about greater than figuring out the worth of a hairbrush in 1810. Mortimer by no means loses sight of the aim of historical past; even has he treats his readers to fascinating tales and observations.

My Ideas 

A powerful sense of place is one in all best strengths of The Time Traveler’s Information to Regency Britain. For instance, the chapter on London is split into three sections: 1790, 1810, and 1830. In every, I felt as if I had been strolling by way of the streets with the writer, noticing adjustments to landmarks alongside the Thames, dodging obstacles as we navigated crowded streets and alleys, quickening our tempo to flee the cesspit odors within the parish of St. Giles, gazing in awe on the Chinese language pavilion within the Vauxhall Gardens. Regency London got here alive for me on this chapter.

Ian Mortimer makes good on the promise of the e-book’s subtitle “A Handbook for Guests to the Years 1793 to 1830” along with his thorough exploration of the social, political, and financial adjustments that occurred throughout the Regency. Mortimer’s historical past is rarely dry or boring, however vivid and accessible for common readers and historical past lovers alike. Readers excited about a specific facet of Regency life can simply dip into a specific chapter or part while not having to learn the complete e-book. However I like to recommend the entire tour, based mostly on my thorough enjoyment of The Time Traveler’s Information to Regency Britain. Now that I’ve learn this information, I plan to take a look at the others within the sequence as effectively.

5 out of 5 Stars


  • The Time Traveler’s Information to Regency Britain: A Handbook for Guests to 1789–1830, by Ian Mortimer
  • Pegasus Books (April 5, 2022)
  • Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (448) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1643138817
  • Style: Nonfiction, British Historical past


We bought a evaluate copy for our personal enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cowl picture courtesy of Pegasus Books © 2022; textual content Tracy Hickman © 2022, austenprose.com. 

Whats up Pricey Readers,

Have you ever learn any of The Time Traveler’s Information sequence?

If you happen to get pleasure from well-written and fascinating historical past books, Austenprose extremely recommends them. 

Drop us a line under and share your ideas on this evaluate and what you might be at the moment studying! We might love to listen to from you!

Laurel Ann Nattress, editor


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