The Georgian Era: 1714–1830.

The Georgian era is a period of British history, normally defined as including the reigns of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain and later the United Kingdom: George I, George II, George III, and George IV, i.e. covering the period from 1714 to 1830, (with the sub-period of the Regency, defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III). Often, the short reign of King William IV (1830 to 1837) is also included. The term “Georgian” is normally used in the contexts of social history and architecture.

A portrait of Jane Austen.

Ozias Humphry's portrait of Jane Austen at the age of 14 c. 1790.

The arts:
Georgian society and its preoccupations were well portrayed in the novels of writers such as Henry Fielding, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen, characterized by the architecture of Robert Adam, John Nash and James Wyatt and the emergence of the Gothic Revival style, which hearkened back to a supposed golden age of building design.

The flowering of the arts was most vividly shown in the emergence of the Romantic poets, principally through Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, John Keats, Lord Byron and Robert Burns. Their work ushered in a new era of poetry, characterized by vivid and colorful language, evocative of elevating ideas and themes.

The paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and the young J. M. W. Turner and John Constable illustrated the changing world of the Georgian period.

A portrait of the Napoleon.

Portrait of a young Napoleon at Château de la Malmaison, near Paris, France.

Foreign affairs:
The Georgian era was moreover a time of British expansion throughout the world and continual warfare, including the Seven Years War, known in America as the French Indian War (1756-1763), The Colonial Revolt or American Revolution (1775-1783), the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

The loss of some of the American Colonies in the American War of Independence was regarded as a national disaster and was seen by some foreign observers as heralding the end of Britain as a great power.

The expansion of empire brought fame to statesmen and explorers such as Clive of India and Captain Cook, and sowed the seeds of the worldwide British Empire of the Victorian and Edwardian eras which were to follow.

A portrait of George II of England.

George while Prince of Wales c. 1716 by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Politics & social revolt:
With the ending of the War with France, the United Kingdom entered a period of greater economic depression and political uncertainty, characterized by social discontent and unrest. The Radical political party published a leaflet called The Political Register, also known as “The Two Penny Trash” to its rivals. The so-called March of the Blanketeers saw 400 spinners and weavers march from Manchester to London in March 1817 to hand the Government a petition. The Luddites destroyed and damaged machinery in the industrial north-west of England. The Peterloo Massacre in 1819 began as a protest rally which saw 60,000 people gathering to protest about their living standards, but was quelled by military action and saw eleven people killed and 400 wounded. The Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820 sought to blow up the Cabinet and then move on to storm the Tower of London and overthrow the government. This too was thwarted, with the conspirators executed or transported to Australia.


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