From shopping to scandal: What did the Georgians ever do for us? Quite a lot, actually...

A new exhibition shows what was invented during the reigns of Georges I to IV

We think of them as 21st century activities: shopping trips, flicking through a magazine, gossiping at Starbucks. But dozens of apparently modern habits were born 300 years ago in the Georgian period, according to an exhibition at the British Library. Georgians Revealed, which opens this weekend, shows how so much of what we take for granted, from gossip columns to garden design, harks back to the reigns of Georges I to IV. The period between 1714 and 1830 saw Britain's population treble to 24 million, and kicked off major social mobility. Here, we examine five areas of modern life, and ask: how much has Britain really changed?

Magazines

Then The first daily newspaper was printed in 1702, prompting an explosion of dailies, weeklies and monthlies covering everything from politics and financial news to gossip. The printed fashion plate was born, with illustrations of what celebrities, such as the courtesan Fanny Murray, were wearing. A collection of lavish colour plates was published as the Gallery of Fashion in 1794, the antecedent to Vogue. Titles such as the European Magazine and London Review were aimed at men, while The Lady's Magazine carried the subtitle: "Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement".

Now Tatler, founded in 1709, The Spectator (1711), and a Sunday newspaper called The Observer (1791), are still with us. The Lady's Magazine was wound up in 1837 and has been replaced by Grazia and Heat. About 3,000 consumer magazine titles are now published in the UK.

Shopping

Then London's Smithfield, Billingsgate and Covent Garden markets were built in the 18th century, as produce was brought into the city from across Britain, along the new canal network. Goods were coming into British ports from around the growing empire too, and competition was rife. Tradesmen began advertising vigorously, and grocers set up permanent stores, such as Fortnum & Mason (1757). The mall dates from this time, with the creation of Burlington Arcade in 1819.

Now Britons spent £314bn last year, at 287,100 shops. Despite the growth of the internet, online sales accounted for less than 10 per cent, at £29bn, suggesting we are still a nation of shopkeepers. The average Briton spends £445 on Christmas.

Coffee shops

Then The first coffee house appeared in London by 1652, and by the 1700s there were hundreds. They didn't offer lattes, but were places for reading papers and pamphlets and gossiping. Many had party political affiliations. One Frenchman hailed them as the "seats of English liberty," though women were banned.

Now The UK now has 15,723 coffee outlets with a turnover of £5.8bn. Costa alone has opened 183 outlets in the past year. Meanwhile, Indian tea imports fell from 22 to 16 million kilos in the past five years.

Celebrity culture

Then The Georgians had their own Kylies and Kardashians as the press, novels and biographies pandered to a taste for real-life stories. The novelist Laurence Stern admitted: "I wrote not to be fed, but to be famous", the courtesan Kitty Fisher leaked stories to newspapers, and self-created celebrities, such as Beau Brummel and the actor David Garrick, flourished.

Now The idea of fame has been around since Virgil described fama as a horrible creature with multiple tongues and tattling mouths. Our modern obsession with celebrities arguably led to phone-hacking. We'll soon test the fallout from that, with the creation of a new press charter, but public interest in others' private lives is unlikely ever to go away.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This organization has been a trusted partner t...

Recruitment Genius: Buyer / Planner

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity has ar...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Journals Manager

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The prime focus of the role is to assist...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks