Jane Austen and the history of England

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Women's History, 2011, 23 (1), pp. 56 - 80
Issue Date:
2011-01-01
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This article examines Jane Austen's History of England from the reign of Henry the 4thto 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 Goldsmith's History of England (1764), Austen's 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 Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. While Austen's politics were Jacobite not Jacobin, this article situates the History along side other satires refuting Burke's spurious account of English history and as an early example of her engagement with the "feminine past". © 2011 Journal of Women's History.
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