The Militia Comes to Meryton:
Quartering Troops in Austen's Time
"The Militia Comes to Meryton: Quartering Troops in Austen's Time" was first presented at the Jane Austen Summer Program of 2019, entitled "Pride and Prejudice and Its Adaptations." Leslie Rowen explores the Regency military and its effects on smaller communities.
During Jane Austen’s lifetime, Great Britain was involved in the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812, among others. Critic Henry Seidel Canby remarked that “the greatest novels written in wartime are unquestionably Jane Austen’s.” Austen’s novels (especially Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion) are full of militias, soldiers, and sailors, but devoid of war. Why do you think she made the choice to write about the military, but not about military conflict? How might her novels be different if she included more references to contemporary events?
Three of Austen’s six brothers served in the military—two in the Royal Navy and one in the Oxfordshire Militia. Considering her close connection to the military and her relationship with her brothers (Henry, of the militia, was her favorite), think about how the military is portrayed in Pride and Prejudice and her other novels. What might the military represent? Do her books take a stance on military life or politics? How does it compare to the other careers/lifestyles available to Austen’s men (ordination and landowning)?