Historical eras can be difficult to define, largely because they are typically defined years, decades or centuries after the fact by historians who are trying to create a method of breaking up the past into manageable chunks of time instead of someone sending out a memo to everyone stating that X era is over, vive le Y era and by the way, the rules for Y era are…
The time period that I plan to primarily cover actually has multiple eras and ages that it belonged to. I’m going to give brief descriptions of some of the more common ones.
The Georgian Era included the reigns of England’s Hanoverian Georges beginning with George I’s coronation in 1720 and has various end dates. Sometimes it is said to have ended in 1811, with the creation of the Regency; at other times it is said to have ended with the death of George IV in 1830; and sometimes the reign of George’s brother and successor William IV is included extending the Georgian period to 1837 when the Victorian period began. As an era, this one is hard to describe due to all the changes that occurred in thought and fashion. The most cohesive trend that I have found so far was for the familial discord between the Georges and their sons, daughter in George IV’s case, and fathers.
The Regency is a sort of subset to the Georgian era. Once again, the dates change based on who you talk to and which sources you are using. The actual political regency began in 1811 when George III was declared insane and lasted until 1820 when George III died making his regent-son king instead. As an era it is sometimes defined as having begun as far back as 1795 and to have ended as late as 1837. This is primarily the era that people refer to when discussing Jane Austen and her work.
The Napoleonic Era actually refers more to France and the rest of Continental Europe than it does to England and covers Napoleon’s reign which began in 1799 and ended with the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. However in online research the term is sometimes broadened to include England, particularly if you are researching fashion as the styles we associate with Jane Austen’s time were primarily imported from Napoleonic France.
The Enlightenment/Age of Reason was an eighteenth century movement that valued and emphasized rationality and reason. Intelligence and education were generally prized and encouraged by Enlightenment thinkers. The belief in liberty and self-rule was also encouraged by some Enlightenment leaders, which is why Enlightenment ideals are sometimes given as part of the background behind the American and French Revolutions. In other parts of the world, the Enlightenment values were used to create the idea of the enlightened despot, an absolute ruler who ruled according to Enlightenment principles.