At the same time, the late eighteenth century also witnessed a transformation in the conception of women’s rights following the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s , Wollstonecraft argues, in the language of Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, that women should be treated as the rational equals of men.Elizabeth Bennett serves as a paradigmatic example of the conflicting transformations in women’s roles that occurred in the late eighteenth century.For the next two decades, Britain was engaged almost without cease in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1793–1815, one of the most significant conflicts in British history.Among the effects of England’s foreign wars during this period were great financial instability and monetary volatility.
Though the rural countryside in which Austen’s novels are set seems at a far remove from the tumultuousness of the period, the world of bears the traces of turmoil abroad.
As Gillian Russell writes, “The hum of wartime, if not the blast or cry of battle, pervades [Austen’s] fiction.” The presence of the troops at Brighton and militia officers like Wickham reflect wider concerns about the place of the military in English civil society.
The novel is also embedded within a set of domestic concerns over property, money and status that highlight the changing social landscape of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England.
This unrest was compounded by Luddite protestors who attacked new industrial machinery (a practice called “machine breaking”) in demonstrations that were a precursor to labor strikes.
As these demonstrations spread fear of a revolution in England, the government responded with repressive measures that sharply curtailed freedom of speech.