The Curious History Of Dating Book Summary By Nichi Hodgson

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

The Curious History of Dating will take you on a fascinating journey through the history of the United Kingdom's dating culture over the centuries.

You'll step into a world of formal dances and complex courtship rules from way back in the 1700s, a fascinating time when finding true love was certainly more challenging.

Fast forward to today, and thankfully you'll soon discover that searching for and meeting that special someone is easier than ever with the help of online dating options!

This book provides all sorts of insights as to how our modern-day approach to dating has evolved throughout UK history.

Highly informative and definitely worth checking out if you want to know more about this curious topic!

The Curious History Of Dating Book

Book Name: The Curious History of Dating (From Jane Austen to Tinder)

Author(s): Nichi Hodgson

Rating: 3.9/5

Reading Time: 30 Minutes

Categories: Sex & Relationships

Author Bio

Nichi Hodgson is a prolific writer who is based in London.

She has in-depth knowledge of a variety of topics, ranging from sexual politics to technology.

Having written articles for the Guardian, Vice and Daily Telegraph, it's no wonder why she's been able to capture these topics so well in her writing.

Her book “Bound To You” was published in 2012 - another testament to her expertise on all matters relating to dating.

Nichi Hodgson's background makes her an ideal candidate to write about the curious history of dating.

The Unsavoury History Of British Dating: From Jazz Age Flappers To Swiping Right

British Dating

If you want to get to grips with the romantic history of British dating, then this book summary is for you.

In this section, we’ll explore how British attitudes towards dating have changed over the centuries, from prosaic newspaper ads and stilted London Balls to selecting a potential match with a swipe of a screen.

The British may have evolved in terms of how they connect romantically, but class-consciousness remains pertinent today.

This summary will give you insight into:

the origin of the word “jazz”;

the grounds for which divorce was accepted in 1930s United Kingdom; and

when the World Health Organization finally declared that homosexuality is not an illness.

Explore these sections to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the curious history behind British dating!

The Changing View Of Courtship: From Brains And A Bank Balance To Queen Victoria’S Romantic Outlook

During the 1700s, status was the main deciding factor for marriage.

It didn’t matter if you fell in love or not; if you had a good social standing and a robust bank account, then your marriage would be considered “good.” At that point, men would use things like “courtesy manuals” as pickup artists to charm their way into women’s hearts and/or pants, with no consideration given to love.

However, things started to change towards the end of the 1700s with Jane Austen’s novels bringing attention to more romantic notions.

Queen Victoria added fuel to this fire when she publicly displayed her affection for her husband Albert and even proposed to him.

The introduction of cheap paper and improved printing techniques also allowed valentines day cards to become popular during this period, and helped sway society once again towards romance as an acceptable reason for marriage.

But gender and class still played a part in courtship during this early Victorian period.

A woman of high rank couldn’t easily elevate her lower-class lover through marriage – that liberty was only allowed to gentlemen.

So while love may have been accepted as an option by this point it wasn’t exactly considered equal – something that wouldn’t truly become reality until much later on in time!

The Emancipation Of Women In The Late Victorian And Early Edwardian Eras

The late 1800s and early 1900s brought about a major shift in culture that liberated both women and men.

The 70’s saw the Married Women’s Property Act finally come into effect, meaning that whatever a woman owned or inherited was still her property even after getting married.

This opened up romantic possibilities for both sexes, as suddenly women no longer had to rely on men for financial stability.

Along with this act came an increase in transportation options such as bicycles and steam trains, allowing people to meet potential partners outside of their immediate town.

Women were also given more freedom to travel alone, which didn’t always encourage some onlookers but was still incredibly groundbreaking at the time.

In 1861, the Offences Against the Person Act removed the death penalty for anal intercourse as well, making it easier for members of the LGBT community to express themselves freely (even though they could still be imprisoned).

Around this time period ragtime music traveled over from America and dance halls became quite trendy.

Upper class members seemed especially interested in living it up with shows of wealth like the famous son of Queen Victoria, King Edward, hosting aristocratic shindigs like never before seen.

American heiresses also began searching for husbands among British elite which led to a more laidback style being embraced by British men compared to their American counterparts as well as young women donning masculine clothes driving cars and enjoying hobbies of their own interest not just ones expected from them by society.

Social injustice continued to be fought against with brave female activists forming strong organizations like the Suffragettes wanting equality between genders including education and rights of voting becoming known as New Women determined make changes in society so everyone could benefit from them leading us towards what we now know today where both genders are considered equal in multiple aspects of life.

The First World War Reshaped Gender Dynamics And Brought About Liberation In The Roaring Twenties


With the onset of the First World War came an increased sense of female independence.

Women moved more freely and worked comfortably, taking on roles traditionally reserved for men while they were fighting on the battlefields.

This marked the shift in gender dynamics that would lead to further changes in the future – one being a changed dating scene where massive quantities of letters were exchanged between soldiers and their loved ones as dating adapted to the war effort.

The aftermath of that war brought transformative changes to London’s popular culture, with the advent of jazz music from America infecting the city’s nightclubs and inspiring iconic dance moves such as The Charleston, Shimmy, and Vampire.

It didn’t hurt that “Jazz” was a slang term for sexual intercourse – an addition to a vocabulary slowly evolving with advancing female freedom.

Flapper girls donned short skirts, dancing late into night after experimenting with cocktails and cocaine.

Sadly not everyone was able to embrace this newfound freedom; many poor working-class people suffered an entirely different reality – caring for husband and sons who had returned from war traumatized by conflict.

Nevertheless, it was undeniable that those heady times years after World War I had changed mentalities irrevocably: female independence had been advanced by battle, and London’s party scene quickly followed suit.

The 1930S: An Era Of Film Dates, Changing Attitudes, And Limited Access To Sex Education

The 1930s saw a shift in how couples started dating: the cinema became one of the favorite places to go out.

With nearly 5,000 cinemas by 1939 and discounted tickets for unemployed people, it was an accessible place for young couples to spend some time together.

Films were getting longer and even classics like Gone with the Wind could last upto four hours – perfect for those who wanted to steal some alone time in the dark.

At this era, gender inequality started seeing some positive changes as well – Marjorie Hillis published her book, How to Live Alone and Like It, which focused on etiquette for single women and established that it was okay to live without a partner.

Moreover, divorce laws also took a step ahead by no longer requiring evidence of adultery – although reasons for termination had to be specified from a conservative list.

Lastly, access to articles related to sex and relationships increased in magazines such as Woman’s Own and Woman’s Illustrated; although they still restricted themselves talking about married couples only.

The Impact Of War On Love And Marriage In 1940S Britain

The Second World War saw a massive increase in nuptials across Britain and other countries.

In England and Wales, wedding numbers rose from 409,000 in 1938 to 534,000 in 1940.

Americans even got into the act after the attack on Pearl Harbor with over 100 getting married every day, spurred on by government monetary compensation for newlyweds and military widows.

But while marriages increased during wartime, so did cases of infidelity.

Illegal births rose from 26,574 in 1940 to 64,743 in 1945 as many couples became separated when the men went off to fight overseas.

The American GIs brought a new level of temptation on the home front with their well-paid salaries and endless cigarettes; one quarter of all US Army letters were sent to British addresses by 1944.

And 20,000 British women went on to marry their American fiancés after the soldiers crossed into France that year.

The combination of these rushed marriages and affairs eventually led to a significant rise in divorces across Britain: from 7,995 in 1939 to over 60 000 by 1947.

The Second World War gave some couples a blessed bond with marriage; but just as many found themselves undone by the temptations laid out before them at home.

A Cultural Revolution Of Music And Celebrity Freedom: How The Liberating 1950s Led To The Dating Boom

Celebrity Freedom

In the 1950s, life in Britain was still tough due to rationing and high income tax rates.

People weren’t looking to spend too much money on expensive dating activities, so they had to find different ways of meeting people.

This is when American culture really came into play.

The introduction of swing music from artists such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald got youngsters dancing in droves.

Things tuned up a notch with the arrival of rock and roll, with Bill Haley’s song “Rock Around the Clock” becoming a sensation among young people.

The suggestive lyrics were eye-opening for many, inciting exploration into relationships by the younger generation.

At the same time, celebrities like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn began to become popular sex symbols around this time.

Gossip columns in newspapers increased too – giving even more exposure to celebrity relationships.

Attitudes towards sex began shifting during this period as well – a survey conducted by Geoffrey Gorer showed that 52% of Britons disapproved of men having sexual experiences before marriage (63% for women) while another study found one in four men had visited prostitutes, and one in five women had an affair!

Sex education and contraception became available for unmarried couples too thanks to Britain’s new National Health Service (NHS), meaning relationships between the sexes were slowly being accepted by society.

All these factors contributed heavily to how Britons met socially – but it didn’t stop there!

Teenagers across America were beginning to discover that dating could be fun just by itself – a notion that soon flourished throughout Britain as well.

In 1967, The United Kingdom Experienced An Economic And Social Revolution With Sexual Freedom At Its Core

The 1960s were a period of immense cultural change, and this was especially true in terms of attitudes towards sex.

The Sexual Offences Act decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in England and Wales and celebrity couples like John Lennon and Yoko Ono broke barriers with their interracial relationship.

This peace-and-love spirit spilled over into an economic boom that allowed more people to get jobs (both men and women) which meant they had disposable incomes which they spent on fashions that helped them form new identities.

While the Mods were a great way to meet potential partners, one’s friends acceptance also played an important role.

Women within the subculture experienced newfound independence and freedom, as they weren’t expected to be someone else’s other half as so many other groups may expect.

It wasn’t just the youth who was pushing for sexual freedom – older generations too began to show increased willingness when it came to experimentation in relationships.

Famous among them was the Free Love Movement which advocated for open sexual intercourse without commitment or expectations from either party.

The widespread adoption of contraceptive pills made acting on these desires easier but comprehensive sex education still lagged behind – many brides were still pregnant on their wedding day and more than 50,000 illegal abortions were being preformed each year across Britain due to lack of resources and knowledge.

While it’s clear that the 1960s saw an explosion of sexual freedom, not everyone embraced or even accepted these changes – hence why progress wasn’t universal during this era.

The 1970S: Shifting Sexual Morality In A Time Of Contradictions

The 1970s was an important time for sexual liberation and attitudes towards sex and relationships began to change.

Although society as a whole moved in a more sexually liberal direction, conservatism still had quite a grip.

Magazines such as Jackie bought teenage girls tips on ‘how-to’ get boys, while Spare Rib took a radical feminist approach to discussing topics such as sex when disabled.

Glam rockers such as T.

Rex’s Marc Bolan who embraced androgyny were also prominent amongst popular culture in the 70s.

Additionally, David Bowie made it public that he was bisexual just five years after homosexuality was decriminalized in 1972, while the UK’s first Gay Pride March took place in Hyde Park the same year.

However, progressive changes weren’t met with full acceptance from everyone; The Joy of Sex released that same year sent shockwaves amongst traditionalists when its no-holds-barred content was seen as nothing less than pornographic by the Daily Telegraph.

The 1974 survey conducted by Forum magazine found that young women gave varying responses on suitable age to lose virginity – showing that sexual liberation didn’t mean everybody shared the same attitude yet.

In fact, three quarters of women getting married between 1971 – 1975 admitted sleeping with their husbands before marriage!

It seems then that although there was momentum for decreasing taboos around dating and sex, individual opinions still remained varied throughout this era.

The 1980S: How Sexual Liberation And Consumerism Changed The Dating Scene

Sexual Liberation

The 1980s ushered in an era of fun and cheeky dating that was reflected in the wildly popular TV show Blind Date.

But while it offered a playful take on finding love, there was a darker side lurking on the horizon: The AIDS epidemic.

Throughout the decade, people took part in consumerism with gusto – designer clothes were all the rage, tanned skin was sought after and bottles of Bollinger were constantly flowing.

Women also started to gain power both within relationships and at their workplaces.

With this newfound freedom came a growing attitude toward sexuality and casual sex among heterosexual and homosexual couples alike.

This acceptance was suddenly overshadowed by media reports of the spread of AIDS, leading to increasing homophobic physical and verbal attacks.

This caused attitudes towards casual sex to become more conservative once again.

By the end of the 1980s, 62.5% of women had made up their mind that one-night stands were wrong – even as government inaction saw no official Department of Health or Social security intervention until 1985, showing how serious the threat really was.

The 1980s established that dating could be fun – but unfortunately, that wasn’t without its own price tag when measured against the backdrop of AIDS.

How Dating Changed From The ’90S To Today

The 1990s ushered in the age of third-wave feminism and, along with it, an increased perception of women’s status and worth.

This was reflected in popular culture, such as television and film shows like Cluelessand Sex and the City that taught women to demand equality and respect in their relationships.

This desire for autonomy was juxtaposed with a crisis of self-confidence as evidenced by a poll from New Woman magazine which suggested that 90% of women considered themselves overweight.

At the same time, many new forms of dating were emerging which lacked intimacy or personability.

The internet became increasingly accessible for people to find potential partners online in the form of chat rooms on AOL Instant Messenger (1997) Yahoo!

Messenger (1998), and MSN Messenger (1999).

Additionally, when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, newly evident opportunities arose for Western men to marry Russian women through the mail-order bride business.

Finally, Yaacov Deyo first popularised speed dating in 1998 initially as a Jewish matchmaking endeavour but then rapidly gaining traction worldwide as more people realised its advantages.

The Amazing Evolution Of Dating: From Heteronormative Marriage Ads To Queer Online Matchmaking

Evolution Of Dating

The early 2000s saw welcome, remarkable advances made for LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex) communities worldwide.

As late as 1992 the World Health Organization still classified homosexuality a mental illness; 8 years later and the Labour Party lifted its ban on homosexuals from serving in the UK Armed Forces.

That same year, the legal age of consent for homosexual sex was lowered to match that of heterosexuals 16 years old.

Not only this but 2004 brought with it the Civil Partnerships Act which meant that same-sex couples could formalise their unions under UK Law – a further milestone in Britain’s ever apparent acceptance of same-sex relationships and partners.

In 2014 gay marriage even became legal in the United Kingdom.

Whilst this was going on in ideologies and law-making, modern culture went wild exploring their sexual preferences too!

2011 seen a surge in popular interest around ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – an erotic novel featuring explicit bondage sadomasochistic content and adapted into a blockbuster film several years later.

It is said that over 125 million copies have been sold since then; shops experienced booming sales of erotica accessories; night clubs held successful fetish nights; and adult website PornHub’s searches for “submission” increased by 55 percent from pre-‘Fifty Shades’ stats!

Lastly came digital dating.

In 2012 Tinder was launched; quickly snowballing into 850 million swipes worldwide per day from people looking for casual fun or something more serious via their smartphones.

And interestingly recent statistics gathered by eHarmony found couples who’d met online were less likely to divorce or separate than those offline – who knew!? Whether undesrtandable or not its no surprise that better internet connections around the world has revolutionised our way of going about finding love!

Wrap Up

The Curious History of Dating delves into a wide range of history to highlight the evolution of dating and mating in Britain.

It starts with the old-fashioned social conventions before progressing through two World Wars and the 1960s’ cultural revolutions.

As society became less rigid and more open to individual expression, ways of meeting potential partners began to become much more varied and personalized.

Nowadays, both men and women in Britain enjoy an incredibly diverse set of sexual choices.

They are empowered to date however they please – be it based on mutual interests and passions, compatibility, or even something else entirely.

This book offers readers a unique insight into this fascinating journey through human relationships throughout time.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.