Jane Austen and the History of England

The John Hopkins University Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Women's History, 2011, 23 (1), pp. 56 - 80
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This article examines Jane Austens History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles I, by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian. Written when she was just fifteen, the History has recently been the subject of interest among historians. Understood as a satire upon Oliver Goldsmiths History of England (1764), Austens History has not been read against the tumultuous politics of the 1790s. This article will suggest that Austen was not merely satirizing Goldsmith but, like Catherine Sawbridge Macaulay and Mary Wollstonecraft, was staking her claim in the vigorous debate around English history that emerged in the wake of Edmund Burkes Reflections on the Revolution in France. While Austens politics were Jacobite not Jacobin, this article situates the History along side other satires refuting Burkes spurious account of English history and as an early example of her engagement with the feminine past.
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