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Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England: How our ancestors lived two centuries ago Hardcover – 6 Jun 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (6 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408703963
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408703960
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.8 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Scholarly but accessible . . . a must for anyone who wants a peek under Mr Darcy's wet shirt (Daily Mail)

A lively and impressionistic guide to the age, enjoyable for those entirely new to the subject, but also for the better informed, who will not only discover new facts in its wealth of material, but appreciate the immediacy and flavour of its eye-witness accounts (Rosemary Goring Sunday Herald)

In reconstructing the lives of ordinary people in Georgian England, Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly evoke the ways in which wealth and poverty coexisted ... This excellent book reminds us that Georgian England was as remote and alien to a modern sensibility as the Roman Empire (Nick Rennison Sunday Times)

a comprehensive survey of daily life in the time of Jane Austen, full of nuggets of surprising information ... a fine book for browsing (Peter Lewis Daily Mail)

Jane Austen's England provides a richly detailed portrait ... As this immensely useful and informative book makes clear, Regency England was no laughing matter (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post)

The authors provide a fascinating view of daily life in Britain during the late Georgian and Regency eras ... an excellent read, with each chapter offering a treasury of insights into the lives of Austen's contemporaries, both rich and poor (Carmela Ciuraru USA Today)

This encyclopedic and entertaining volume will suit readers who daydream about going back in time to walk alongside literary figures such as Austen ... While familiarity with her work will surely enhance reader delight, knowledge of the primary sources isn't necessary ... readers will appreciate its exciting sweep (Publishers Weekly)

For fans of Austen and English history, a deeply informative picture of Regency life (Kirkus Reviews)

Book Description

A revealing, spirited and fascinating account of what life was really like in Jane Austen's England.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This companion to "Jack Tar: The Extraordinary Lives of Ordinary Seamen in Nelson's Navy", is social and domestic history at its very best, revealing, with much new material and many fresh insights, the day-to-day circumstances, concerns and attitudes prevalent in Georgian England during Jane Austen's lifetime (1775-1817).

Incidents and details from Austen's family history, letters and novels are put in historical context and set against reports and first-hand descriptions from a wide range of contemporary sources. For example, on being taken to court for shoplifting, Austen's aunt had to buy herself a not guilty verdict to avoid deportation, and the author praised the London home of her brother Henry ('It is a delightful place...') apparently unaware that it had a dangerous chimney notorious for trapping boy sweeps in its flue.

Roy and Lesley Adkins' skill in researching, analyzing, juxtaposing and commenting on telling details has created an intriguing and compelling narrative in which our ancestors of two hundred years ago appear both familiar and utterly alien. Young children toiled (and died) in chimneys, mines, factories and on the land; it was legal to kidnap (press) men for the Navy; in middle-class homes the washing was done every five weeks or so, took a week to complete and the washerwomen boarded with the family as did visiting dressmakers; each parish was responsible for the very basic social welfare of its inhabitants; tax had to be paid on everyday staples plus land, windows, houses, male servants, female servants, horses and carts; William Willberforce was campaigning for the abolition of the slave trade abroad whilst vigorously supporting legislation at home to suppress trade unions and the working class.
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Format: Hardcover
Authors of numerous history books, the Adkins have a knack for finding fascinating first-hand accounts to illustrate history in a vivid way. As they showed us life belowdecks on a British warship in Jack Tar; Life in Nelson's Navy, so do they recreate daily life for the middlin' to poor sort living ashore in the same era.

"Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England" gives us a look at the everyday lives of the people in Jane Austen's world. Using bits of letters, diaries, travel journals, ballads, recipes, court proceedings, newspaper notices and other records, Roy and Lesley Adkins enlighten us with tidbits of English social history -- many of them quite surprising.

Using snippets from Jane's contemporaries the authors shed light on such institutions and customs as marriage, divorce, contraception and extramarital affairs, childbirth and childrearing, food, fashion and hygiene, transportation, education, leisure activities, religion, superstitions -- and death.

Impeccably researched and eminently readable, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen is a book to read from cover to cover -- or to be browsed at random. Highly recommended, along with the book, Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy

Includes maps, notes, bibliography and index.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I have been looking forward to the Adkins' new book for some while: "Jack Tar" is a classic, likewise "The War for all the Oceans". In fact nothing I have read of theirs has ever failed to inform and entertain, (in roughly equal measure), and this study of the world and social history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century is no exception.

Divided into sections covering all manner of civilian life, the narrative flows easily encompassing every aspect. And this is not a laboured trudge: the style is light, without being frivolous, making the mass of information easily digestible. Several grey areas that had previously concerned me were addressed, and an informed and detailed understanding of the period given. Contemporary diarists are quoted extensively, as are newspaper reports, editorials and even advertisements, the latter being a delightful inclusion, giving an insight into the commercial world, as well as conveying the aspirations and expectations of people from all levels of society. And it is in this catholic approach that the book is especially valuable; from nobility, through gentry, middling classes, and down as far as common vagrants, every social group is covered in full and fascinating detail.

The book is illustrated with maps, diagrams and monotone images, and comes with a comprehensive index, bibliography and reference notes - essential in a work of this nature. There is also a chronological overview which in itself brings up some interesting facts: George Stevenson was born a year before the last man was hung drawn and quartered, and The Times had been founded and already a popular newspaper when the last woman was burned at the stake.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am delighted that I found this book - not only for reasons of research for my own novels (expect gleaned bits of information to be used extensively) but this is also a fascinating, intriguing and (in places) amusing read (there are also some details that make me so pleased I live now not then! I'm not sure that I'd like to call on the blacksmith next time I have toothache!)

Highly recommended for anyone interested in 18th century England or Jane Austen. A must have for writers of this period!
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