The Edwardian Era
A pair of uncommonly large parasitoid wasps use aggressive mimicry in the hopes of landing a wealthy English gentleman with which to fertilize their eggs.

"It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910
King Edward's on the throne, it's the age of men!"
George Banks, "The Life I Lead", Mary Poppins

The long hot Indian summer between the death of Queen Victoria and the start of World War I. A time of elegant tea parties, absurd women's hats, Gentleman Snarkers, ridiculous Flying Machines and (mostly) unsinkable ships.

Strictly the term Edwardian Era only applies to the British Empire during the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910, but it is usually extended up to the outbreak of war to capture the end of an era. Other countries define eras differently, usually incorporating The Gay '90s. In the United States, the corresponding time period is the Progressive Era (the latter portion of The Gilded Age), beginning with Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration in 1901 and ending with US entry into WWI. In France there is la Belle Époque, from roughly 1884 (when the Third Republic stabilised) to the beginning of World War I in 1914; in Germany the "Wilhelmine Era" (Wilhelminische Ära) encompasses the bulk of the peace years of the reign of Wilhelm II, from the dismissal of Bismarck as chancellor to World War I, and the years 1890 and 1914 also mark the beginning and the end of the Fin de siècle, another French term that proved especially popular with reference to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, since that did not survive the war.

The subject of many nostalgic musical films featuring Gorgeous Period Dress from The Great Depression through The '60s (though The '50s and The '60s have many nostalgic settings featuring The Roaring '20s), and the favorite period of the filmmaking team Merchant-Ivory. The page illustration is a good example of what the well-dressed Edwardian lady wore; note the large, elaborately decorated hats, S-curve silhouette (produced by the style of corset popular in that decade) and elbow-length white kid gloves.

(Take note, however, that there was a significant change in women's fashion about 1909 or 1910, dividing the era into two segments fashion-wise. After 1910, women's dresses tended to be simpler and more flowing in design, reminiscent of Regency-era dresses, inspired with Oriental flavours, with hints of Art Nouveau in detail; tailored suits and dresses were very popular at this point, and the "Gibson girl" pompadour hairstyle faded away, to be replaced by simpler hairdos with a lot of curls, and bobbed hair and cloche hats were on their prototype forms. These years were the glory days of the so-called "Merry Widow" hat, the huge, elaborately decorated hats mentioned above. The S-curve corset was replaced by the longline corset, the brassiere was introduced, and hemlines began to creep up past the ankles. The sharp-eyed viewer will be able to get a good idea of when in the period a movie or TV show is set by observing the ladies' couture. You can take it as a given that any production recounting the story of the Titanic where the women are wearing puffy sleeves and S-curve corsets - unless the character in question is designated as being behind the times fashion-wise - is a research flub.)

Of course, all this finery could not disguise the grievous injustices of such a society, and the people out to challenge them. This was the era of anticolonial movements across the world, left-wing agitations at home and abroad, the first Russian Revolution of 1905, Imperial Japan's first success in annexing the Peninsuala of Korea as well as the final end of of the Qing Dynasty and Imperial China. Likewise, nationalism in the decaying Ottoman Empire led to the rise of a racist and nationalist ideology that led to increased repression on minorities in the empire, the Greeks, the Armenians and others, which would escalate into genocide during World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was likewise caught in a similar cauldron of decadence and self-destruction (reflected in much of the art from this era), unable to contain the nationalistic convulsions in various parts of the empire. In addition to this, there was the growing power and influence of weapons manufacturers and business tycoons. This era in the United States was considered to be nadir of American race relations and it was a time when eugenics and phrenology and other scientific racism was mainstream and respectable. For many poor young men and women in Europe, they felt they lived in, as writer Victor Serge put it, "a world without escape" on account of high unemployment, constant repression of any attempts to agitate for fairer rights or better movements.

In England, the major movement in the metropole was the quest for women to have the right to vote. After decades of peaceful activism like petitions and public appeals, it was becoming plain that too much of the male hierarchy such in Britain was stubbornly unwilling to cede this basic right. In response, leaders like Emmeline Pankhurst in the UK decided that it was time to get tough to force the male politicians to listen. As such, the political conflict escalated with suffragettes employing violent methods like breaking windows and blowing up mailboxes to make themselves heard. In response, the authorities responded with mass arrests and police brutality, and delving into torture via force feeding suffragette prisoners when they went on hunger strikes. One of the most dramatic moment was when Emily Davison was trampled to death at the Epsom Derby by the King's own race horse when she attempt to get a protest sash on it when it was galloping on the track. With that, the movement got a martyr and struggle continued until finally the resistance was broken after the end of World War One when getting the women's vote became politically advantageous for conservatives in the wake of Red October. (By contrast, in the United States, many states west of the Mississippi, starting with Wyoming in 1869 - when it was still a territory; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to Congress, came from Montana - gave women full voting rights by the time World War I started in 1914. California, for instance, enacted women's suffrage in 1911.)

As for science and technology, the 1900s saw a great age for transformation and numerous discoveries, such as the installment of the Nobel Prize, the imaginary rift between traditional physics (motion, light, sound) and modern physics (nuclear, quantum, time-space continuum) stating of with Albert Einstein's Annus Mirabilis, whose most famous paper was the theory on relativity in 1905. The Wright brothers becoming the first people to fly (albeit for about a minute) in 1903, while Zeppelins from Another World flying around the globe. In addition there was massive ships like the RMS Titanic, electricity, inventions like the phonograph, internal combustion engines, the Ford Model T and many more getting more mainstream and more affordable to the public; the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 giving ships a decent detour; the North and South Pole expeditions; Guglielmo Marconi's transatlantic wireless radio signals; the discovery of radioactivity by Marie Curie; Sigmund Freud's notes on psychoanalysis; a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovering umami which would revolutionize chemistry and gastronomy; and the World's Fairs of 1900 in Paris and 1904 in St. Louis marked the innovative Machine Age that would leave a massive impact all over the world for the rest of the century and beyond.

Partly as a result of the above, the era is also, like the later Victorian years, seen as a golden age for globalization. Trends in trade, mass immigration and communications helped spur an interconnected world that someone from the early 21st Century would find familiar; according to some experts, present day globalization still falls short of the scale of the 1900s in some respects. This even included some public movements in response to the social problems caused by this trend, as when the full horrors of King Leopold of Belgium's ruthless exploitation of his personal property, the Congo Free State, were revealed to the world, as reflected in books like Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In addition this was the age of Internationalism, where workers movements in different countries often co-operated and interacted with each other to put forth common ideas. The most famous of this was the Second International, the first global communist movement, but there were other non-communist socialist, anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements as well, including the IWW (Wobblies). The development of science, technology and progress, as well as the genuine internationalism also reinforced the Victorian optimism of linear progress, and even to utopian hopes that one day borders and nationalities and other divisions would end or erode. This belief was critiqued and labelled in Norman Angell's The Great Illusion which argued that greater economic progress and globalization had ended rational reasons for warfare but was not yet reinforced by political institutions and international commitments to check in aggression and the arms race. World War I confirmed Mr. Angell's prophecy and replaced the illusion of "a world without warfare" with "the war to end all wars".

Tropes featured in this period are:

  • Art Nouveau: The choice aesthetics of the era as the organic motifs contrast with the industrial progress of the era.
  • Cool Horseless Carriage: Automobiles were new at the time, so it was a great wonder for many.
  • Dance Sensation: When a century of endless waltzing fades away, new dances like tango and foxtrot step in to the dance floor. And with ragtime as the tunes, the piano has never been more alive.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: Much like in the Victorian era.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Well, aircraft was at its infancy.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Orientalism was the buzzword of the era.
  • Gentleman Snarker
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: Well, not as poofy as two decades ago, but it's still poofy.
  • The Gilded Age
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: 18-inch waists, and an S-bend may give you a decent attraction.
  • Of Corsets Sexy / Of Corset Hurts: Your pick. Although at that time it was, for the lack of a better word, more relaxed in contrast the wasp-waist Victorian corsets.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: It was in this era since the Regency era that feet can shown again, and hemlines slowly rose above the ankles in the 1910s, never to touch the ground again in 1919, much to the chagrin of the old folks.
  • Old-Timey Bathing Suit: Even at the beach, you can only expose a little bit of skin.
  • Opera Gloves: This style of glove is associated with this period more indelibly than perhaps any other. Well-dressed women of the period never went out in public with bare hands (or arms, if they were wearing short-sleeved, low-cut evening gowns). Daytime gloves often reached the elbow when worn with short-sleeved dresses or jackets, and evening gloves could go all the way up to the shoulder depending on glove style and/or wearer preference. White kid leather was the preferred color and material, particularly for the most formal outfits, but gloves could be worn in a rainbow of colors and materials with less formal gowns and daytime outfits.
  • Nice Hat: Bowlers, derbies, and top hats for men; wide-brimmed and decorated Merry Widows for women.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: An well-to-do Edwardian woman's wardrobe screamed with the latest Parisian haute couture everywhere; day, afternoon, at home, evening, dancing, theater, court, derby, beach, sportswear, travel, for cars, wedding, kimonos, negligee, lingerie, you name it, there's a dress for every occasion.
  • Prim and Proper Bun: The Gibson Girl pompadours of the 1900s, and the loose chignons of the 1910s.
  • Proper Lady: Even in a progressive era, a lady was expected to be demure and ladylike.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: It was a fine time to be a British gentleman.
  • Sharp Dressed Man: You can never be a true Edwardian man without those slim, sharp dapper suits to contrast with your elegant pastel-hued lady.
  • The Silent Age of Hollywood: Hollywood as a film industry came to be in 1911.
  • Spirited Young Lady: The Gibson Girls. At this age, these women has now the opportunity to engage in outdoor sports like tennis and cycling, and other activities to keep them busy a bit rather than do housework all day. And yes, they are the basis for the evolution of the modern, liberated woman twenty years to come.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ashita no Nadja takes place in various European countries several years before the first World War.
  • Candy Candy takes place in the America of the Edwardian Era. In fact, a whole arc takes place in a super elite Boarding School located right outside of London, and the manga itself finishes some time after World War I.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist is set in an often anachronistic alternate universe version of the Edwardian era.
  • The epilogue of Victorian Romance Emma is revealed to take place sometime in the earlier Edwardian years.

  • The setting of many of Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girl" drawings (he actually was active from the late 1880's to the 1920's, ending his career as editor-in-chief of Life magazine just before it switched to its better-known photojournalism format, but the Gibson Girl is indelibly associated with both The Gay '90s and The Edwardian Era). Harrison Fisher and Henry Hutt were other popular artists of the period who specialized in depicting ladies' fashions.
  • The general setting of Edward Gorey's macabre illustrations.
  • Late Art Nouveau and other modernist movements.

    Comic Books 


  • P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) began his writing career in this era; while his later stories are mostly set in an unspecified era between the two wars, they also have a distinctly Edwardian feeling.
  • Late Sherlock Holmes stories (1887-1927).
    • The TV movie Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, set in Vienna during the last years of Franz Josef's reign, with Morgan Fairchild as Irene Adler.
  • Mare seemingly takes place in the late 1890s or the early 1900s in Norway.
  • Part of The Irish R.M. series (1899-1915) took place in this decade.
  • Strumpet City, published in 1969, is set in Dublin between 1903 and 1914.
  • Arsène Lupin. The literary series started in July, 1905.
  • The Wind in the Willows (1908), both the original and most adaptations
  • The Father Brown series started in September, 1910.
  • Fantômas. The novel series started in 1911.
  • The novel Peter Pan (1911), at least the parts not in Neverland (it was written during that era)
  • Death in Venice (1912) and Confessions of Felix Krull (1954) by Thomas Mann.
  • The Lost World (1912)
  • Tarzan. The series of novels started in 1912.
  • Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. The original short-story collection was published in 1913.
  • Fu Manchu. The series of novels started in 1913.
  • Maurice. Written in 1913, though only published in 1971.
  • The Monster Men: about 1913
  • Journey to the River Sea: about 1910, set in Brazil and Britain.
  • Pellucidar. The series started in April, 1914. Featuring modern era adventurers traveling to an underground world.
  • Jeeves and Wooster. The short story series started in 1915.
  • Of Human Bondage (1915) takes place in the pre-war era.
  • literature/Parade's End through written in 1926-1928 the story takes place before and during the great war. ending when the war itself ended.
  • The epilogue to The Age of Innocence (1920) is set in this era.
  • Chéri (1920) features a female lead from this era.
  • Much of Edward Gorey (1925-2000)'s work evokes Edwardian England through its visual style and peculiar linguistic flair, though the author himself was born and lived out his life in Massachusetts.
  • Most of Betsy-Tacy series (1940-1955), which begins in 1897 and ends with the protagonists' husbands getting ready to go fight WWI.
  • The events of The Magician's Nephew (1955) take place in this era, at least the parts set on Earth.
  • The American Girl Samantha Parkington (1986), though she's described as Victorian, is actually from this era. Her story is set from 1904 to 1907.
  • Human Nature (1995), which was later adapted by the novel's author into the TV story "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood". The Doctor spends some time as a history teacher at an Edwardian school.
  • Tipping the Velvet (1998) is set at the very end of the Victorian Era and (possibly) the beginning of the Edwardian.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999-2006) seems to take version in either the Edwardian Era or in a Retro Universe based on it.
  • Plenty of the works of L. M. Montgomery are set in this era, but she tended to avoid scenes of high society and fashion in her stories for the simpler Arcadian lifestyle on Prince Edward Island.
  • George MacDonald Fraser's Mr. American is set in 1909 to 1914.
  • Most of H.P. Lovecraft's works evoke this era with their fussy, tweedy, collegiate and madness-prone protagonists; somewhat explained by the fact that Lovecraft was not only a fussy collegiate professor-type himself, and had lived through the era, but never wanted it to stop, being deeply uncomfortable with the modern world he was now living in.
  • Arbetets döttrar by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren takes place in 1903 and 1904. But it shows the time period mostly from the perspective of the working class and their dreams of more rights and better lives.
  • The E. M. Forster novels A Room With A View, Maurice, and Howards End
  • Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War takes place in a British town just before World War I.

    Live Action TV 


    Newspaper Comics 

  • Eight Ball Champ takes place in a gentleman's club of the era.

     Professional Wrestling 


    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Red Dead Redemption.
    • Even though most of the locations the plot takes place at is visibly stuck in The Wild West (which is Truth in Television). It is quite interesting to, in the beginning of the game, leave the urban world of automobiles, Homburgs and federal agents and enter the rural one of carriages, pipe cylinders and cowboys.
  • BioShock Infinite takes place in an alternate history 1912, in the flying city of Columbia. Much of the setting is based on American culture and attitudes at the time.

    Western Animation 

Works made, but not set, during the Edwardian era