Book Review: The Curious History of Dating

I did my undergraduate degree in English Literature and History. I’d always been better at literature at school—but I couldn’t let go of my passion for researching history, either. So when I caught sight of The Curious History of Dating in our office library, I had to get my hands on it!

Nichi Hodgson’s book is a thorough and revealing examination of British dating from the 1700s all the way through to the modern day, exploring various periods’ dating etiquette, activities, and possibilities. It details the impact of huge historical events on the personal experience, such as how the invention of the telephone made it easier to speak to a suitor, and how WW1’s introduction of GI Joes to the UK radically transformed dating.

Time and again I found my presumptions about the past being challenged. Some of the facts about Victorians, for example, made me blush! The book also delves into the realities and triumphs of gay dating, dating across class, and interracial dating. Hodgson is a proud feminist and, while the book never preaches, it also doesn’t tolerate prejudice no matter the era. She’s pragmatic in her approach. She doesn’t judge, and she’s funny. My only criticism is that sometimes I wanted her to expand on some of the more astonishing anecdotes, but then I suppose the book wouldn’t have been able to achieve such breadth of history.The Curious History of Dating is a great tool not only for empathising with past daters, but also for learning lessons from them that still apply today. One example is particularly pertinent here at Drawing Down the Moon: Hodgson’s exploration of matchmaking agencies through history! The Wedding Ring matchmakers in 1848 had two books full of their clients’ details. One book contained only their photos, while the other detailed their personalities and interests. Guess which book generated more interest!


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Written by : Matilda Parry
- Posted in: Book Reviews
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