Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice is both written and set in Regency England. The Regency era refers to the time between 1811 and 1820 when King George III was considered unfit to rule, and his son ruled for him as Prince Regent. British society at that time is often described as interested in art but also by political and economic change, which was particularly triggered by the upheaval caused by the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). The wars are hinted at in Austen's novel through the presence of the militia officers, whom Lydia and Kitty are so crazy about.
This era saw a rise in the popularity of novels. This popularity was fuelled by increasing ease of printing and distribution, as well as increasingly widespread literacy, particularly among women. However, novels during this time were generally focused on the upper classes of society. We see this in Austen too; we never encounter the working class in her novels.
Regency era society was very stratified, meaning that there was a large gap between the very poor and the very rich. The issue of class is key to Pride and Prejudice, as it is to Austen’s other novels. The nuances of the class system in Regency England can sometimes be difficult for us to understand today....