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The Regency era began when the Prince of Wales was appointed Regent of England after his father, King George III, fell insane. Encompassing the years of 1812 to 1830, the period signaled the end of Georgian exuberance and the advent of Victorian sensibilities. The Industrial Revolution, which had begun in the mid-18th century, continued to bring innovation to the Western hemisphere during this era, while the political world remained entangled in wars and revolutions.

For nearly the entire first half of the Regency era, France and England remained embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815, Napoleon's quest for continental domination was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. The British continued to dominate India, the West Indies, and the Persian Gulf, its handsome spoils from peace treaties established during this period. At home, the English agonized over the Prince Regent's governance given his well-known bouts of self-indulgence and ailing health. After the Regent's daughter and sole heiress, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in 1817, the matter of royal succession became urgent. Royal dukes scrambled to marry acceptable princesses in the hope of siring the future monarch of England, with the Duke of Kent ultimately fathering Queen Victoria.

The United States maintained its independence against England during the Regency era. After declaring war in 1812, the two nations engaged in a two-year naval battle along the Canadian border. In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent brought the futile war to an end. However, America remained entangled in several domestic controversies such as the First Seminole War in 1817 and the mounting tensions over slavery fueled by the Missouri Compromise in 1820.

Elsewhere around the globe, the Regency era saw the independence of several South American countries including Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Chile. Spain experienced a revolution, resulting in the reinstatement of the Constitution of 1812. In 1829, the Peace of Adrianople ended the Russo-Turk War and Turkey acknowledged Greek independence.