Regency England: Exploring Jane Austen's World


“Pray, pray be composed, and do not betray what you feel to every body present” 

If you are looking for an exciting plot in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility you won't find it.  What you will find are interesting people with complicated relationships who share the same passions as you.  The world of the Dashwood sisters seems to be remote from ours, yet as you read you will find the same jealousy and heartbreak, friendship and love that are universal to the human experience. Yet Elinor's world seems to be so formal with attitudes and manners that are different from those of today. Through this webquest you will be entering the world of Jane Austen and Georgian and Regency England, where you will imagine yourself trying to fit in with the new, strange yet familiar, world around you.


While digging through an old trunk you found at a garage sale, you pull out a gown and top coat unlike any you have ever seen before.  Thinking back, you remember watching movies that were set during the early 1800s and seeing the same types of clothing.  Suddenly the lid on the trunk slams shut with a force that almost splinters the wood. A smell of wood smoke and roasting meat drift through the air as you slowly open your eyes to find yourself standing along a dirt lane and facing a neat country cottage. You look down and find yourself wearing the exact piece of clothing that had been in your hand.  What to do now?

You will spend the next 3 days in Regency England. How will you survive?  Your task is to prepare a guide for future time travelers by creating a powerpoint presentation with everything they need to know about Jane Austen’s England.  Let them know what they may expect to eat (no hamburgers or French fries!), how they will dress, what they can say and what they CAN’T say (manners and morals), and how to behave as a gentleman or lady in polite society.  Your group will then show your presentation to the class.                    


While you are doing your research, take notes on material that you want to use.  Write down the title of each site or article that you use.


1. “The Place”:   Begin by determining your place in the world.  Using the following sources get an idea of where in England Jane Austen’s novels are set.  (This map link describes places in Pride and Prejudice, but you should still get a sense of the geographical region of England in Austen’s works.)

After you get a feel for the “place,” use this information to describe the geographical setting of “Sense and Sensibility.”  (Section 1 of your presentation:  1-3 slides. Complete in your group.)


2.  General Background:  You will now learn more about life in general during Jane Austen’s during the Georgian period, of which Regency England is part.  The names for the eras (Georgian, Regency, Victorian) come from the ruling monarchy.   (Watch the slide show half way down the page.)

        The Portrait, Comforts of Bath, 1798, Thomas Rowlandson

Use section 2 of your presentation to describe any aspects of life that you choose.  Are there things you find surprising?  Revolting?  Funny? Imagine the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures of the time.   (Section 2 of your presentation:  minimum of 3 slides. Complete in your group.)


3.  Clothing:  The following web sites contain a wealth of information about men’s and women’s fashions.  Each link takes you to many short articles.  You may choose any 2 or more of the articles to describe your clothing.

Men’s fashion:


Women’s fashion:


Section 3 of your project will show and describe the dress of a lady or gentleman.  Did you get a sense of how many layers of clothing a woman would wear?  You may also want to touch on the materials used in clothing, how you obtained clothing, or popular styles or accessories. (Minimum of 2 slides each; presentation should be done individually.)


4.  Daily Life:

Complete your research by finding just what people did all day.  What games were popular?  What kind of music was listened to? What about social occasions?  Choose any 4 articles (or more) under the headings of Leisurely Pursuits, Gentlemen's Pursuits, Ladies Endeavors, or Dancing to learn more.  You may also use any of the other articles that interest you.  (4 or more slides).

Music and Housing:



4  Excellent

3 Very Good

2 Developing

1 Beginning


More than 10 correct references to time period.

Between 5 and 10 correct references to time period.

Between 1 and 4 correct references to time period.

No correct references to time period.


Your role model could live in the time period.

Your role model exhibits 3 modern characteristics.

Your role model exhibits 5 modern characteristics.

Your role model is living in the 21st century.

Product Presentation

Appropriate graphics and text; excellent class   presentation .

Some graphics and text; good to excellent class presentation.

Some graphics and text; no class presentation.

No graphics, little text, no class presentation.


Construct (spelling, punctuation, grammar)

1 or 2 grammatical errors.

3-4 grammatical errors.

5 grammatical errors.

More than 5 grammatical errors.


"It is a great nuisance that knowledge can be acquired only by hard work."
 W. Somerset Maugham

Congratulations on the completion of your project!  After you finish your research you should have a completed powerpoint presentation that will describe some aspects of life in Jane Austen's England.   The final step to your project is to schedule a time to present your research project to the class.  You and your partner should decide how you want to jointly present your product to the class.

You will be graded using the attached rubric.  Additionally, you should send me an e-mail with the grade that you believe you should earn on the project, and what grade you believe your partner should earn.  This is confidential information and will only be viewed by me.

You are now ready to read Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility with new knowledge about and appreciation for life during the Regency Period in English history.

"A problem is your chance to do your best."
Duke Ellington

Teacher Page

    [img_assist|nid=27778|title="Sense and Sensibility"|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=331168400|height=331168400]   

          Few students understand the worlds presented through literature of far-off times and places.  This webquest was created to help English IV students gain perspective of what it was like to live in Jane Austen’s England.  After completing the webquest, students should have built sufficient background knowledge to increase their analysis and enjoyment of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

          Most students are reluctant to read when the language seems difficult and they have little understanding of the world presented by the author.  This webquest is designed to increase the student’s knowledge and interest by exposing them to Jane Austen’s world.  Mangelson and Castek (2008) describe the benefits of using a webquest to enhance the teaching of literature by providing an engaging platform for student learning.  It is appropriate for all learners at the upper senior high level, and allows students of differing abilities to participate.  The resources chosen for the project provide primary source materials as well as visuals to aid in understanding.  The culminating activity requires a creative presentation that will present the results of the research and allow the student the opportunity to share their presentation with classmates.

          Students are encouraged to place emphasis on accurately representing the Regency period in England and communicating their research by demonstrating their understanding of the time period, as reflected in the grading rubric.  This focus centers on Habits of the Mind #6, Striving for Accuracy, and # 9, Thinking and Communicating with Clarity. 


Mangelson, J., & Castek, J. (2008). Engaging students with webquests. Book Links, 46-47.