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Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain (Paperback)

British History P&S History Social History Georgian Era 19th Century 18th Century

By Mike Rendell
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Sex and Sexuality
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations - integrated and 8 page mono plates
ISBN: 9781526755629
Published: 29th October 2020

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Peek beneath the bedsheets of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain in this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality during the reigns of Georges I-IV. It examines the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour, and the ways in which these attitudes were often determined by those in positions of power and authority. It also explores our ancestors’ ingenious, surprising, bizarre and often entertaining solutions to the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy sex life.

Did the people in Georgian Britain live up to their stereotypes when it came to sexual behaviour? This book will answer this question, as well as looking at fashion, food, science, art, medicine, magic, literature, love, politics, faith and superstition through a new lens, leaving the reader enlightened and with a new regard for the ingenuity and character of our ancestors.

So far Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain by Mike Rendell is my favourite book in this series. Not only he touches on aspects such as marriage and divorce, homosexuality, venereal diseases, but also on topics like rape. Only for that chapter the book is a must read, it was so compassionately written, but without judgement. He draws extensively on primary sources, such as court records, which are varied, and those offer a realistic insight into what doctors thought regarding sex, the legal system, but he looked at newspapers which showed what people really believed.

There are details on courtesans, many of their stories being told, creating a wonderfully complex picture of what life was like for them. The details on contraception and, most of all, what constitutes contraception in the first place was just as interesting. Some of those ideas would seem incredible to us today, and, in some ways, they were more open minded than us. Food is also mentioned, of course, and so is art. For a short book at about 200 pages this is packed with information and there are also many drawings in the book, some of them quite bawdy.

5/5 stars

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Coffee and Books

I really enjoyed reading Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain and the glimpse it gave me into the most intimate and explicit lives of the Georgians.

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Lifelong History Lover

Excellent. While we often assume that sexual mores (outside of Puritanism) have been the same throughout time, each era has its own unwritten rules, acceptances, and taboos. The Georgians may surprise by being somewhat modern. Mike Rendell provides a well researched look at individual stories and general practices. Interesting read.

NetGalley, Judith Morris

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very informative and highly recommend! Great read for history buffs!

NetGalley, Heather Michael

This book was funny, at times, and for a slim volume is quite comprehensive. Since the period is one of my favourites and for a time was a ‘special interest’, I already knew about most of the content, personalities and scandals, but there were some things I hadn’t come across before.

This is a very easy book to read and is well-illustrated. The author rightly warns us against retroactively assigning sexualities to people and highlights the hypocrisy of the period when it comes to the law for men and women, rich and poor.

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Rosie Writes...

This was total book candy! Such a fun, easy read. It's very short - lets you dip your toe into many different aspects of sexuality in Georgian Britain. Some of the chapters cover homosexuality, sex toys, lesbianism, cross dressing, rape, masturbation, contraception, prostitution, pedophilia, flagellation, sex in public spaces, sex in art and literature of the period, etc.... It's all incredibly fascinating and telling about human behavior and sexuality. Such a delight! I loved reading the real accounts of sexual encounters people had in Georgian Britain (from diaries), and the illustrations were HILARIOUS.

I felt prepared for the content of this book because I love the TV show Harlots. I thought Harlots may have been exaggerating things a bit because it's a TV show, but this book seemed to confirm Harlots is surprisingly accurate at telling the reality of prostitution in England.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the history of sexuality, or anyone new to the topic. You don't have to be an academic to understand or follow along. It's written for a broad audience and general readers, which I really appreciated. The book left me wanting MUCH MORE (which is a good thing!). I wish it was twice as long and went in even more depth. I'll have to check out the author's other books and explore the other books he references through out. I wish all books were as fun as this one.

NetGalley, Madison Sullivan

It's an informative and well written book that kept me hooked and helped me to learn a lot.
I liked the style of writing and how the book is organised.
It's recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

This was an interesting read and I feel the author did a good job with the subject matter. I hope to read more.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

Having read the book on sex and sexuality in Victorian times, I was keen to read this, especially as it sort of related to the Harlots TV series.. An interesting read, well researched, very informative.

NetGalley, Gillian Shackleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Well written and very informative but done so in a manner that was equally as entertaining, I very much recommend this book!

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

Mike Rendell has written a number of nonfiction works about the history of Britain during the Georgian period covering the reigns of Georges I-IV. Here he examines the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour. As in other eras there was clearly one rule for the rich, those in positions of power and authority, and another for the poor and working class.

He considers the various social factors that had ushered in a more permissive society including significant changes in religion and its observances.

Rendell draws on a wide variety of primary sources including first hand accounts, such as Casanova’s famous memoir, along with examples from the media, contemporary literature, legal records, art, fashion, politics, medicine, food, religion and superstition.

The book includes many illustrations from the period and the main text is followed by an extensive bibliography including online resources, accreditation for the illustrations and plates, and an index. I will note that some of the material and illustrations were quite explicit, which might offend some readers’ sensibilities. Still, the title should provide fair warning.

I have recently read a number of works of historical fiction set in the Georgian period and it was fascinating to read an overview of this intimate aspect of Georgian society.

NetGalley, Vivienne O'Regan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A really interesting and well researched book. I'm sure everyone has heard of the Covent garden ladies , whether it be through tv, film or in books . There was such a lot of information without reading like a text book . Lots of famous and infamous figures appear on the pages and it gives the reader a different perspective of the Georgian period. They definitely had some strange ideas when it came to the difference between the sexes. I thoroughly recommend it.

NetGalley, Ann Jones

Rendell is always of quick wit when he describes of the Georgian's belief in humours and portents during or against pregnancy, a lot of laws against blasphemy and libel, prostitution, brothels, and sex as explored through art & literature.

NetGalley, Kristine Fisher

This was a well-researched and well-written historical look at sex and sexuality in Georgian Britain. A time where sex and sexuality became part of everyday conversation (or comic illustrations), Rendell uses newspapers, diaries, court records, and more to explore the disparities between how the rich and the poor, men and women, were treated when it came to sex. What could people get away with? What was becoming more common? What was changing? For a good nightmare inducer, be sure to read the section on the medical profession and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases just before going to bed (or eating). It's shocking to think that the British medical profession really hadn't developed past the ancient Greeks. "Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain" is well organized into interesting chapters and is a must read for anyone interested in the time period.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

"There was a law for the rich, and there was a law for the poor. There was a law for men, and there was another law for women."
This book explores Georgian Britain's attitudes to sex and sexuality, and gives an overview of a wide variety of topics: rape, homosexuality, contraceptives, STDs and prostitution, to name a few.
It is well-researched and structured, and surprisingly accessible. I also appreciated the incorporation of life in Georgian Britain further than sex and sexuality, including politics, medicine and literature. Throughout, there is also commentary on gender and sexism.

NetGalley, Ella Blake

I loved reading this book and I hope to read more books from this author and subjects like this in the future. The author did a good job.

NetGalley, Tina Carter

This was a really entertaining read, I enjoyed learning about a point in history that I didn't know much about. I look forward to reading more from the author.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

I found this like the others in this series, interesting, funny, accessible and detailed. The writing was great and i liked how this presented. This is well worth a read.

NetGalley, Bethany Younge

I loved this. It was fascinating and I learned so much. Well definitely be buying the book to keep it in my collection.

NetGalley, Lisa Curtin

What an interesting read! I very much enjoyed this book as it guides me through the Georgian England and makes me question the historical aspect of today’s hypocrisy when it comes to moral and sexuality. I find the mistresses of that time quite interesting as they became famous and made an impact in the city in terms of fashion, popularity and gossip. The lack of medical information and the presence of misinformation when it comes to the female body is beyond pathetic but again very eye-opening. Georgian era did pave the path to today’s society. After finishing this book, I feel very informed without getting bored. I will definitely check out what the author has to offer next.

NetGalley, Aysesu Zorlutuna

This is an easy and a very informative way of approaching the subject of sex and sexuality in 1700s Britain. The book is divided in several different chapters all about a certain aspect of sex/sexuality which gives an easy-to-follow overview. The chapters are not terribly long either with helps holding my interest, at least. Rendell also includes various illustations from the time period which further helps the reader visualise how a 1700-person percieved sex/sexuality.

It's interesting to note how some things has stayed the same over the last 300+ years but also how much has changed in the general view of these topics. Some things - of course - have changed for the better. - for example the view on female sexuality. Sex and sexuality has a big part of humane life, and having a book to exploring how the history of sex, if you will, has progressed is so very interesting to me.

I really enjoyed reading this book - and was appalled at some things (in a good way I think, shows us that some things change for the better) - and would really much enjoy reading the author's other books on the subject!

NetGalley, Sarah Matsson-Klingzell

Quite a short read so didn't take me long to read.
So well researched - it was fascinating.
Great illustrations.

If you are interested in social history - this is a great read.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought this was a great educational but fun read. It was interesting without being immature. It seemed to be well researched. If you were a fan of books like 'Dead Famous', 'Curious History of Sex' or 'City of Sin: London and its Vices', you should really enjoy this book.

NetGalley, Sinead Noonan

Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain is a short but informative text covering all aspects of sex and sexuality in the eighteenth century. It is nicely illustrated and well presented, with easy-to-read prose and a good balance of humour and detail... this book provides an excellent place to start to get a good introductory overview of the subject.

NetGalley, Nicki Markus

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Georgian era, which extends from King George I to George IV and even includes William IV, means roughly the 18th and very early 19th century. It follows a rather prudish period and precedes a another rather prudish one called the Victorian era. As such, it is extremely interesting to investigate how sex and sexuality were experienced in that short lapse of time, something this book sets out to describe. And I daresay, it turns out to be an extremely interesting read. No unhealthy voyeurism, no unwholesome exhibitionism or sensationalism in here, but facts, statistics, quotes, excerpts from contemporary letters, newspaper articles, travel descriptions, and so on.

The author has a perfect sense of how to “cut” his topic into small, easily digestible chapters, the main subjects of which range from prostitution to sex toys, from homosexuality to contraception, from abortion to VDs. Furthermore, the author knows how to write (agreeably, I might want to add) and how to entertain his writers whilst presenting historical data; there are even countless passages where his wry and subtle humour shone through, making me giggle while reading. In one word, a pleasant and instructive book which puts all things sexual and sex-related into the easily understandable historical perspective of that remarkable period.

NetGalley, Dieter Moitzi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is an absolute treasure, full of little known information about the sexual habits of the Georgian period, and the hypocrisy of the time in regard to women. I shall consult it often as a reference book, but I also enjoyed reading it.

NetGalley, Mary Hawkes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This may be on of my favorite history books ever! Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain, had me from the word sooterkins, yes it is an actual word. Lol I was so throughly entertained by this book and astonished by all the absurd thoughts people had about sex in the past. Even though 2020 has been an interesting year, I would take living in this age then living back in the day. Although I really wish it were true that my menstrual blood had magical powers such as controlling the weather and make knifes dull. It would make shark week even more interesting. Don’t let this book scare you because it’s a “history” book, because you will miss out on so much.

NetGalley, Jamice Robinson
 Mike Rendell

About Mike Rendell

Mike Rendell has written thirteen books, all of them about Georgian England. His interest in the period was inspired by a fascinating cache of papers left by his 18th century ancestors. His other books with Pen & Sword include: In Bed with the GeorgiansTrailblazing Women of the Georgian EraPirates & Privateers in the 18th CenturyCrusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of SailSex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain, and most recently Georgian Harlots and Whores.


When not writing, he spends his time talking on Georgian topics both in Britain and abroad, and in particular on board cruise ships. He travels extensively but his home is in Dorset.

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This book takes an entertaining peek at the secrets and scandals of Regency Britain, a period in which the heir to the throne was making merry with his mistress whilst his ailing father attempted to keep a grip on both his crown and his finances. From Princess Caraboo to the Peterloo Massacre, the Regency was a period of immense upheaval in both personal and public lives as well as in politics. We’ll see how the advent of the modern media brought ‘spin’ to scandal and focus on stories of those people and events who encapsulated the age.

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