How the Regency is like the 1960s

I attended my friend Beth’s birthday party the other day. Beth loves vintage everything from the 1960s so it was a 1960s themed party complete with peace symbol party favors and a game of 1960s Jeopardy (to which I answered a couple of questions right…)

So I got to thinking…How was the Regency like the 1960s?

Most obviously, perhaps, there was a war going on, a war lasting several years.

The war with Napoleon must have felt to the British citizens like a far away event, but the Vietnam War was played out in our living rooms through the magic of television. And, of course, the wars ended very differently.

There was social unrest.
The Peterloo Massacre happened when the local magistrate ordered the militia to break up a protest demonstration against the Corn Laws and advocating for other civil liberties.

The 1960s also had protests broken up violently, both those fighting for Civil Rights and, later, those protesting the Vietnam War.

Fashions changed dramatically
From the Georgian to the Regency

From the 1950s to the 1960s

I’m sure there were other similarities, like technological advances. The Regency was beginning to explore the uses of the steam engine, for example, and the 1960s introduced manned space flights.

Can you think of other similarities or differences?

Don’t forget I’m blogging on Thursday on Diane’s Blog. Tomorrow there I’ll announce last week’s winner of a signed copy of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady.
Blogging at DianeGaston.com

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Joanna Waugh
12 years ago


I gave a talk to a ladies group last fall on this very topic! Beyond the social rest and war, I found the technological links particularly interesting. Did you know the idea for computers was sown in 1822? Charles Babbage described his concept of a “calculating machine” in a letter to Humphry Davy (correct spelling). And speaking of Mr. Davy, in 1802, he demonstrated the first incandescent light bulb at the Royal Academy.

Fascinating stuff!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Hi, Joanna,
I didn’t know about the electric light bulb but I did know about Babbage. I think Byron’s daughter worked on that, didn’t she?

I wonder what Davy would have thought of a Lava Lamp?

Jane Austen
12 years ago

I never thought before how much the fashion had changed between the 1950s and the 1960s, but it did quite drastically. I’ve always questioned why the Regency era went so free (comparatively)from Georgian and then came the Victorian age which was not so free. I’m not positive, but I think in the US we did stay with bigger dresses from the Federal era on through the Civil War and so on and so forth.

I have been researching war crimes against cultural objects and found out that our modern day war crime laws including those about culture come from the 1863 Lieber Code which was created as a result of the Civil War. Although crimes against culture have gone on for centuries. Which makes me wonder what cultural crimes were done during Vietnam although by then the Hague had new rules about war crimes….but it does make me wonder since those specifically dealing with culture were revamped in 1977….I guess I’m off to do some research.

Thanks Diane for the great similarities and a fun, intelligent blog post.

12 years ago

I remember trying on an empire-waisted dress @ 1969. My mother blanched as I walked out of the dressing room. (I won’t tell you how old I was, but we will say I was—developed).

12 years ago

A major difference: The 60s were a period where the US moved away from the represssive authoritarianism of the 50s, as exemplified by MaCarthyism. The English Regency was the opposite. Authoritarianism became far more entrenched in the aftermath of disillusion with the French Revolution. Our romance novels side step this issue but there was a huge crackdown on the press and many people were arrested and imprisoned for expressing political ideas that most Americans take for granted.

–Jenny Brown

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

It definitely proves the old adage “there is nothing new under the sun.” We humans are a rather circular lot, aren’t we? Great post, O Divine One !

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Jane Austen, I would probably debate whether the Regency was more permissive than the Georgian era. The Georgians were a wild lot and I’ve always seen the Regency as a transitional era, much like the 30s and 40s were transitional to the more repressive 1950s (my perception anyway)

I’m intrigued by your crimes against culture concept. I want to hear more!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

LA, not so long ago I came across my wedding photo and I realized that my dress was a regency dress. Empire waist, leg o mutton sleeves. This was before I’d ever heard of the Regency

See the dress here.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

I agree with you completely, Jenny, but don’t think all of our romance novels sidestep this issue! This is at the heart of my second Soldiers book, Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress. Due out this September!

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Louisa, history does go in cycles, doesn’t it? It is why we should study the past.

The past is prologue!

12 years ago

I had never thought about it, but you are right. The similarities are there.
I can think of one difference. The Regency was a time of defined social structure, rules, and behavior. The 60’s was a time where those were challenged and redefined.
I’d forgotten about the Empire waist dresses. Very Regency. That style hung around for a while into the 70’s. My wedding dress was empire style.

Megan Frampton
12 years ago

What a great observation, Diane! You are totally right.

Jane Austen
12 years ago

I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. I was talking strictly about clothing not about behavior. I meant freer clothing.

I’ll let you know what I find in my research.

Jane George
12 years ago

wow, great post. Made me think about stuff like how 1960’s fashion borrowed from 1920’s style (bobbed hair, sheath dresses), 1970s from turn-of-the-century (wide lapels, big sideburns, granny dresses), and how Regency fashion was influenced by the Classical Era.

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