This map plots the settings and references in The French Lieutenant's Woman

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Dorset is a county in the south west of England, adjacent to Wiltshire, Somerset, Hampshire and Devon. 

The region has a history stretching back millennia.  As well as the fossils that play a large part in the novel's early sections, there is archeological evidence of Stone Age settlements and Roman encampments.

The industrial revolution had relatively little effect on Dorset, which remained a primarily agricultural county.  As the 19th century wore on, the area came to prominence in the fledgling trade union movement of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Although a railway was built in 1860 to link Dorset to the capital, London would still have seemed another world to the people of Dorset.  The costumes, social mores and customs of the capital would have been regarded by locals as the cutting edge of fashion or scandalously modern, depending on personal outlook.