Thomas Rowlandson, ‘The Dance’ from Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield (1817), showing two rows of people dancing outside © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1959.

Domestic and social dance in Georgian Britain

Social dance was a significant pastime in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Much information about social dance has survived in the form of newspaper and personal descriptions, paintings and caricatures, pedagogical treatises and dance music.  These sources help to elucidate the variety of dance forms and locations in which dance took place, and the personnel involved in making dance a successful social and cultural activity. 

This website approaches social dance through the lens of dance music and covers the period between 1760 and 1830 in Britain, although it is heavily focussed on England. Due to the survival of sources, it recounts primarily the activities of the upper classes.   

It aims to provide background information and useful resources relating to social dance and dance music for academics, heritage professionals and dancers engaged in historical dance. 

The website is divided into a number of sections: 

  • Dance Types and Locations looks at common dances which might appear in domestic music collections, the types of spaces in which social dance took place, and intersections between theatrical and social dance. 

  • Dance as Social Activity offers a range of case studies which look at the broader social and cultural connections forged through dance and how these relate to dance music, furnishing examples of narratives that help tell the stories of domestic music collections. 

  • Performing Practices looks at the instrumentation of dance ensembles and the issues that come into play when considering how dance music was performed. 

  • Dance Music Recordings reconstructs the possible sounds of dance ensembles through a number of different examples.  Here, you will find music tracks, as well as scores and parts to download and use. 

  • Further Resources links to primary sources, scholarly publications and useful websites that specifically address aspects of social dance during this period. 

To cite this resource as a whole, please use Faulds, Katrina, and Wiebke Thormählen. 2021. Domestic and Social Dance in Georgian Britain, ed. Wiebke Thormählen.

We would like to extend our particular thanks to Victoria Hooper, whose excellent work behind the scenes has made this website possible.