Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The History of England by Jane Austen

The History of England by Jane Austen

Jane Austen wrote her History of England in 1791 at the age of 15. Comprising of just 34 pages accompanied by 13 watercolor miniatures of English monarchs that were painted by her sister, Cassandra, History of England is a fascinating piece of early literature. Being a piece of juvenilia it was wrote mainly as entertainment for her family circle when they gathered in the parlor of her father’s rectory.

A work of witty satire, this History offers more parody than actual history and draws attention to the way a girl of her age would have felt about their education. Filled with mocking satire, devoid of actual dates and vital information, Miss Austen’s portrayal of the monarchs was more for sheer amusement rather than educational purposes.

The History of England showcases Miss Austen’s wildly vivid imagination, as well as her ability to produce social comedies.

A few years after writing The History of England, Jane Austen compiled this composition as well as 28 other pieces of her juvenilia into three notebooks, which she entitled “Volume the First”, “Volume the Second”, and “Volume the Third”. It is in “Volume the Second” that The History of England is contained, and upon Miss Austen’s death, this volume passed to Cassandra. Upon Cassandra’s death in 1845 “Volume the Second” passed to Francis Austen, and remained in her family until 1977 when it was sold to the British Library.

In 1922, the granddaughter of Francis Austen and owner of “Volume the Second” allowed Chatto and Windus to publish the entire notebook under the name Love and Friendship. Since its first publication in 1922, The History of England continues to be published.

In addition, the British Library has recently uploaded the original “The History of England” on-line for readers to enjoy. If you would like to view the original, you can do so here.


The History England opens with the following:

The History of England
from the reign of
Henry the 4th
to the death of
Charles the 1st.

By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian.

To Miss Austen eldest daughter of the Revd George
Austen, this book is inscribed with all due respect by
The Author

N.B. There will be very few Dates in this History.

The copy that I possess is a newer edition published in 2006 by Icon Books Ltd… It contains a forward by David Starkey as well as an excerpt of Charles Dickens’ A Child’s History of England. I do like this version, although I wished that it would have contained the miniatures that Cassandra painted. Other than that, this version remains true to the original manuscript. It offers a witty account of the monarchs through the eyes of a 15 year old. I liked the little quips and conclusions that Miss Austen makes throughout the book. She deems that Richard III was a respectable man because he was a York. Henry VIII’s only merit was that he was not quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth. Also, that it was her (Jane’s) Duty to declare that this amiable woman, Anna Bullen (Anne Boleyn), was entirely innocent of the Crimes with which she was accused, of which her Beauty, her Elegance, & her Sprightliness were sufficient proofs…

This is a book that all Janites should take a look at. I found it highly amusing I hope you do as well.



  1. This book sounds wonderful. I love that line, "by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian. thanks for the giveaway.

  2. This book sounds lovely. :) I love English history and with a writer like Miss Austen... :)

  3. It sounds marvelous! A chance to read more of Jane Austen's witty prose.
    Thank you for a chance to win a copy.

  4. Very interesting, I'd love to read this book.
    Thank you for this giveaway and especially for making it international.

    maniezkelly at gmail dot com

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  6. I know I missed the contest by months- but I just saw this post and wanted to thank you for posting the link to the book. It sounds fascinating and I cannot wait to pour a cup of tea and read it!

    I found you through Book Blogs and signed up to follow you. When you have a chance- please stop by and follow the blog for my middle grade novel that I am hoping to get published.

    Take care-
    Jess- although I may show up as Fairday, the main character from my novel. I can't figure out why that happens sometimes and I can't fix it. :)