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The Curious History of Dating

From Jane Austen to Tinder

By Nichi Hodgson
19-minute read
Audio available
The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder by Nichi Hodgson

The Curious History of Dating (2017) guides readers through the history of dating and relationships in the United Kingdom. From the formal dances and rules of the 1700s to the growth of online dating in recent years, these blinks show that dating and finding true love has always been a difficult affair. But thankfully, today it’s easier than ever before.

  • Non-Brits confused about the etiquette for dating a Brit
  • Long-term couples looking for some historically-based date inspiration
  • Curious fans of British social history

Nichi Hodgson is a British journalist, broadcaster and author based in London. She regularly contributes to news outlets such as the Guardian, Vice and the Daily Telegraph, specializing in topics such as sexual politics, dating and technology. Her first book, Bound to You, was published in 2012.

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The Curious History of Dating

From Jane Austen to Tinder

By Nichi Hodgson
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
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The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder by Nichi Hodgson
Synopsis

The Curious History of Dating (2017) guides readers through the history of dating and relationships in the United Kingdom. From the formal dances and rules of the 1700s to the growth of online dating in recent years, these blinks show that dating and finding true love has always been a difficult affair. But thankfully, today it’s easier than ever before.

Key idea 1 of 12

Status marriages were the norm in the 1700s before the early Victorian Era made romance more acceptable.

When we look back at the history of interaction between men and women in the United Kingdom some of it sounds very quaint, and some of it sounds very familiar.

Just consider the phenomenon of “courtesy” manuals, which found a readership right up to the end of the seventeenth century. These were read by men – the pick-up artists of their day – so that they could charm their way into a lady’s knickers.

But times were changing. It was the age of Jane Austen. And, if you’re familiar with her novels, you’ll know that marriages in the late 1700s were rather more concerned with social status and money than with love. If both parties scored those assets, then you’d have a “good” marriage on your hands.

The consequences for courting were clear. Instead of lightweight sweet talk, men started appealing directly to women’s – or perhaps their fathers’ – reasoning. Your best assets were a respectable character and robust bank account.

Consequently, people’s attitudes toward dating changed: they knew what they wanted and what they could offer. Before long, the number of Lonely Hearts ads in the daily press multiplied.

Of course, the wealthy did not resort to placing ads. They had “the Season” in London. It ran from March to June and was stuffed full of balls and galas. Families sent their daughters along to be seen in public and snapped up by potential husbands.

They were pretty stiff affairs. Dress rules and codes of conduct were very strict. Even the smallest slip up might result in a young woman being overlooked for the rest of the season.

Thankfully, such status-led dating gave way to romance in the 1800s. This change of attitude was partly sparked by Queen Victoria’s very public affection for her husband, Prince Albert. She even proposed to him!

Valentine’s Day cards also took off in this period. Though they’re now considered a classic romantic gesture, it was the arrival of cheap paper and new printing techniques that helped popularize them.

In 1836, 60,000 cards were sent in Britain, rising to an incredible 400,000 in 1840. The introduction of a cheap public postal service meant their numbers tripled again by 1871.

However, this new romancing was still heavily influenced by gender and class norms. A lady of high rank could hardly elevate a lower-class lover through marriage. That liberty was only allowed to gentlemen.

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