Jane Austen and the history of England

Mary Spongberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines Jane Austen's 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 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".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-80
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Women's History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

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