The world is filled with tension and unease. Not the first time, most likely won’t be the last time. Even in Jane Austen’s day and age, there was anger and hostility. People demanded rights and disputed land. So let’s take a look of just a few of the wars and rebellions that happened in Jane Austen’s lifetime.
Jane Austen was born in 1775. Does this sound like a familiar year to anyone in the US? Something about the U.S. breaking free from British rule. That year brought us battles at places like Lexington and Concord, and Bunker Hill.
1776 saw many changes in the U.S., including New Hampshire ratifying the first state constitution. The book Common Sense was published. And the Second Continental Congress enacted a resolution declaring the U.S.’s independence from the British Empire.
Then 1777 to 1778 we had more battles. The Continental army wintered in Valley Forge. The war ended with the British surrendering at Yorktown in 1781.
While the U.S. and England were recovering from the Revolutionary War, other areas were having their own difficulties. The French Revolution began in 1789, which led to the downfall of the aristocracy in France. That war lasted 10 years.
In 1790, the Saxon Peasant Revolt was being fought in Germany. It involved the hunting rights of the nobility. Due to a harsh winter and drought that year, the peasants revolted, wanting the hunting privileges and socage (feudal system) abolished.
1791 brought the Haitian Revolution. It lasted 13 years and ended with the first free black republic.
And priorities were seen to when, in 1794, there was a Whiskey Rebellion in Pittsburg, causing then President Washington to declare martial law and used forces to quell the insurrection. The rebellion was over taxes. Taxes on whiskey? For shame. [Sorry, just a little humor.]
The Irish rebelled in 1798, a failed attempt to be free from British rule. 1803 saw another Irish rebellion against British rule.
The beginning of the Napoleonic Wars came in 1803, lasting until 1815, involving a multitude of countries involved throughout Europe. These had a profound impact for global and European history, which led to nationalism and liberalism spreading across Europe and the British Empire becoming a world power. It also led to independence movements in Latin America and the demise of the Spanish Empire.
In 1804, the only major convict uprising in Australian history was suppressed under martial law in the British colony of New South Wales. The convicts battled against the colonial forces of Australia.
While we are in the land down under, we have the only successful armed takeover of government in Australian history, which happened in 1808, and was called the Rum Rebellion (wonder if Captain Jack Sparrow was around for that one) or the Great Rebellion. Major George Johnston and John Macarthur deposed the New South Wales Corps. Afterwards, the colony was ruled by the military.
1808 was a busy year, as it also saw the Peninsular War and the Spanish American War.
1810 brought about the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Spain fought battles for West Florida in 1810, followed by a bloodless expulsion from Paraguay in 1811.
The War of 1812 found us at odds with England once again, when there were issues with the U.S. trading with both England and France, who were at war with each other. England continued to interfere with shipping and assisted American Indians against the U.S. Though a short war, the city of Washington was burned.
There were revolts and riots on English soil as well. 1780 had the Gordon Riots that broke out in London in a fervor of anti-Catholic sentiments. Riots and unrest was common as industrialization took hold, as rights of the workers became necessary.
In the year of Jane Austen’s death, England also had difficulties on their home front, when, in 1817, Pentrich, in Derbyshire, had an armed uprising consisting of 200 to 300 men (iron workers, quarrymen, stockingers) who marched on Nottingham. A government spy, known as Oliver the Spy, was the organizer of the event. Their demands included wiping out the national debt.
After Austen’s death, there were more, highly important, wars within a short time frame. The year 1820 was an eventful year, seeing the Scottish Insurrection, and revolutions in Spain and Portugal. Several South American countries fought for their freedom from Spain, including Ecuador and Peru.
So, hostility and fighting was unfortunately known in Jane Austen’s lifetime. Some of the most important changes in the world were made in that timeframe, helping to shape the world we know today.
As the future unfolds, I hope we can look at what history has already shown us, so we can keep from making similar mistakes. There will always be someone spouting hatred, that particular fact will never change. There will always be disputes over land, money, and nations. And there will always be a need for kindness, love and understanding. In Jane’s precious stories, her characters try to find peace and love, a happily ever after. Isn’t that what we all desire in our lives? I hope you all find your happily ever after, and hopefully your right to bear arms…bear your arms to carry books, that is.
Thanks to Wikipedia for photos and images.