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The Edwardian Era

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"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, Gentleman Snarkers, Art Nouveau, 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 World War I in 1914 to capture the end of an era; similar periods in other countries, like the Progressive Era in the United Statesnote , "La Belle Époque" in Francenote , and the Wilhelmine Era in Germany note  also often incorporate The Gay '90s.


The early 1900s were a great age of technological transformation, and numerous scientific discoveries were made during the period. This was the period when the first Nobel Prizes were handed out, when Albert Einstein drew a line between traditional and modern physics with his Annus Mirabilis papers, when the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, when the radio was created and popularized, when cars like the Model T first became commonplace, and when the first expeditions to the North and South Poles were made. The 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris and 1904 St. Louis World's Fair remain some of the more famous world's fairs due to their showcasing of this great change.

In Britain, the Boer War brought a rather unpleasant end to the Victorian period and foreshadowed the brutality of conflicts to come, but Britons at home remained unfazed as the United Kingdom remained at the top of the world both politically and economically. France enjoyed a cultural renaissance as the country bounced back from the Franco-Prussian War and Napoleon III's dictatorship, returning to the spotlight as the cultural capital of Europe. The United States cut down on the corruption that had plagued it during The Gilded Age thanks to the reforms of Theodore Roosevelt's administration, while the Wild West became a little less wild.


Not all was well in the world, of course. In many parts of Europe, class struggle and ethnic tensions started to boil over. The Ottoman Empire began to falter and the Balkans became a hotbed of nationalism, which would go on to spark something a little bigger, while poverty among the Russian peasantry began to approach the breaking point as an insurrection was attempted in 1905—the little brother of the 1917 revolution. This was also a period of extended colonialism; Europeans, most infamously the United Kingdom and Belgium—but also including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal—solidified their rule over Africa during this period after its establishment in the late 19th century. The Raj was at its greatest extent in this era, and the Spanish-American War and the building of the Panama Canal were closely tied to American imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.

In spite of its many problems and darker sides, the period still remains fondly remembered. It was especially popular as the subject of movie musicals in the mid-20th century and still retains some cultural relevance today; it's the time when women's suffrage came in full swing, it's the time when one of America's most beloved presidents was in office and when one of Britain's current primary political parties first took hold, is a greatly influential era to anyone interested in the history of science and technology, and it's also the period when many sports took the shape of their current forms, including when modern sporting wear developed and when the modern safety bicycle was popularized.

See also The Silent Age of Hollywood, the Meiji Restoration, Imperial Germany, The Mexican Revolution, The Raj, and No More Emperors for more specific information on the period in different places. The Gay '90s and The Roaring '20s are the decades before and after the Edwardian period.

Tropes featured in this period are:

  • Art Nouveau: The aesthetic developed during this era in tandem with the last hurrah of romanticism. Today, the organic motifs provide a stark contrast with the industrial progress of the era.
  • Cool Horseless Carriage: Automobiles were still very new at the time, the first roadworthy cars dating to the 1890s. Once people got past the initial shock, they became a hot commodity and status symbol, especially after the Model T made them affordable to the middle class.
  • Dance Sensation: When a century of endless waltzing fades away, new dances like the tango and foxtrot step on to the dance floor. This was also the heyday of ragtime music, much to the chagrin of musical traditionalists.
  • Darkest Africa: The popular perception of the continent in this era, a perception that constantly found its way into all aspects of the culture of the period, from Dime Novels to "reconstructed native villages" at World's Fairs.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: Much like in the Victorian era, industrial towns tended to be fairly smoggy, a problem that would not be alleviated until well after World War II.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Modern fixed-wing aircraft first developed in this period, as did the Zeppelin and rigid airships in general.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
    • Asian, and particularly Japanese, culture and goods maintained a certain mystique and allure for many Europeans; Asian imports were a popular sort of upper-class knickknack.
    • Following the Ballets Russes' performance of Scheherazade in 1910, a wave of Orientalism ensued. French couturier Paul Poiret showcased his collection of models wearing harem pants, turbans, kimonos, and dresses with bold colors and exotic prints.
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: Though not as poofy as in the later Victorian era, dresses in this period were still deeply fond of this trope.
  • Great White Hunter: A popular occupation of wealthy people visiting African colonies in this period.
  • High Class Gloves: The opera 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.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Corsets, which now gave the wearer an S-bend silhouette, were still popular in this period, though thankfully the worst excesses of the Victorian era had faded and more modest corsets (such as "health corsets") were in vogue.
  • 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. Paul Poiret was the pioneer for discarding women's corsets due to his sentiment against these torture devices.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: For the first time since the Regency era, it was acceptable for women's feet to be visible. 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: Modest (by today's standards, anyway) bathing suits had been acceptable on men for quite some time already, but this is the first time when something resembling modern bathing suits were acceptable on women, as well. Bathing machines started to lose prominence in this era.
  • Nice Hat: Bowlers, derbies, and top hats were worn essentially at all times by men in this period (and working cless men often preferred flat caps.) Upper and upper-middle-class women wore giant, elaborately decorated picture hats.
  • 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 this more progressive era, a lady was expected to be demure and feminine. Suffragettes frequently made a point out of bucking this expectation to make their message stand out.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Attitudes toward middle- and upper-class men remained quite similar to the Victorian era. And, of course, Britain still continued to import massive amounts of tea.
  • 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.
  • Spirited Young Lady: The fashion trend exemplified by the "Gibson girl" illustrations. The development and growing acceptance of women's sportswear afforded women the opportunity to engage in outdoor sports like tennis, cycling, and other activities previously thought outrageous. And yes, they are the basis for the evolution of the modern, liberated woman twenty years to come.
  • The Suffragette: Women fought for their suffrage. After decades of peaceful activism like petitions and public appeals, Suffragettes stepped up their game with civil disobedience, vandalism like destruction of property and so on.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • 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 

    Comic Strips 

  • Walt Disney loved this era. Naturally, because he grew up in it. This is the inspiration for Main Street in various Disney Theme Parks. Several Disney films are set in this period as well, usually portraying it with a mix of cozy nostalgia and charming quaintness. Following Walt's death, the setting became less common in Disney films, but it still comes up now and then. In order of release:
  • Toby Tyler (1960) - A Setting Update. The original novel was written in 1881.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 


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

    Pro Wrestling 


    Video Games 
  • Red Dead Redemption: Even though most of the locations the plot takes place at are 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. The Playable Epilogue of RDR2 takes place in 1907, four years before the events of the first game.
  • 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.
  • The Last Express is, as the title suggests, set on the last journey of the Orient Express before World War I broke out, and features live actors rotoscoped to mimic the Art Nouveau style of the period.
  • Sunless Skies is set in a possible future of Fallen London around 1900, where London has been transferred to space and locomotives ply the star-lanes as London (renamed Albion) now expands to colonize nearby star-systems. Strictly speaking it is still the Victorian Era In-Universe, however, as Queen Victoria has become immortal.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 

Works made, but not set, during the Edwardian era


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