Category: Daily Life | Type: Discussion | Title: Emma (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Vol: Volume II | Ch: Chapter VIII

But WHAT politics? A reader might wish to know something more about this conversation. 

Austen glancingly refers in her novels to Abolitionism and the Napoleonic wars, and somewhat more to literature, especially in Northanger Abbey, and just a few pages back to becoming a governess. This novel refers to "change" but not specifically to the most obvious and visible changes: the growth of population, the Enclosure Acts, the movement to London and the factory towns, and the spread of industrialism no less what the characters think about all of this.

Yet we must remember that her contemporary readers would automatically import their knowledge into the novel. They would find in "politics" in 1814-15 continued rumblings about the Regency and the Prince's extravagance, the recent conclusion of another war with the Americans, the abdication of Napoleon, the government's ending in 1813 the East India Company's monopoly in India, and the passage of a Corn Law that fixed the price—high—at which wheat could be imported.

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