“Business or pleasure?” It’s a familiar question in an airport or at a train station. And it’s a question that would have been applicable back in the 1800’s too. Though the people of Regency England traveled for their holidays, they traveled for business reasons too.
One of the distinctives of the Regency is that it was a time of enormous industrial development. Not only were civil engineers learning how to make already common methods of transport (horses, wind-powered ships, etc.) more efficient, they were also developing new ways to get people and materials across vast distances in less time. According to the Oxford Illustrated History of Britain:
“It took nearly a fortnight to travel from London to Edinburgh in 1745, two and a half days in 1796, and around 36 hours by coach or steamer in 1830.”
That’s a lot of change in well under a century. And, of course, rapid technological development led to changes in society as well.
England was a country that made a lot of its money on its exports, many of which were produced in its northern regions. Items like coal and wool were manufactured in the north of the country and carried down to the south (and thence to distribution points across Europe) by ships on the sea, and, more and more by the time of the Regency, by canal.
So, while the aristocracy might find themselves traveling to the seashore for a holiday, the lower-class man was much more likely to find himself traveling the way most of us have always found ourselves traveling: when our jobs say that we must.
The armed forces
And who, in the Regency, had jobs that were most likely to force them to travel? Besides the merchants, it was the men in the army and navy. As in every era, wars and rumors of war abounded in the Regency. Take your forty shillings from King George and you were likely to find yourself far, far away from your native England. America? France? Even India? All these destinations and more were possible for the man in uniform. No promises of holiday feasts or vacation amusements, but if you wanted to see the world in the early 1800s, joining up would almost guarantee it.
Peace of Christ to you,
Originally posted 2012-07-23 10:00:00.