The World of Jane Austen



England from the 1790s was a jittery nation. The upper classes were terrified that the radical ideas from France were going to take root in their society. The lower classes were increasingly squeezed by enclosures, the forces of the new industrialization, and, towards the end of the decade, near famine conditions (brought on by freak weather but attributed by many to governmental policy); they seemed to be moving ever closer to the revolt that the upper classes feared. These currents would have been part of the perceptions of anyone in Austen’s circle. Whether Austen was especially conscious of social movements or not, whether the people around her were socially conscious or not, so pervasive were these social realities that Austen had to have been aware of them. Austen’s adolescence was punctuated by the French revolution (she was fourteen in 1789), and her adulthood was marked by the seemingly endless years of the war with Napoleon’s France, repeated references to which we have just remarked in Persuasion.


Lower Class French Revolution Military Family Social Unrest Thames Estuary 
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© Mona Scheuermann 2009

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