Jane Austen worked on Mansfield Park during 1813, ahead of its publication in 1814. This dates Sir Thomas Bertram's courtship to approximately 1783, six years before the French Revolution.
Huntingdon is a small English market town, formerly the county town of Huntingdonshire, one of the historic English counties. Following changes in local government administration, Huntingdonshire lost its county status in 1965, and the town of Huntingdon is now part of Cambridgeshire.
Click here to see a map of all the historic counties of Great Britain.
Northampton is the archaic name for Northamptonshire, an English county in the East Midlands whose county town is Northampton. Prior to the local government reorganisation of 1965, it shared part of its eastern border with Huntingdonshire.
Baronet is a hereditary title passed down through the male line. Like knights, baronets are addressed as 'Sir', the difference being that knight is a non-hereditary title. Having said that, a baronetcy is sometimes described as a hereditary knighthood.
Unlike the other main British hereditary titles (in descending order of precedence: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron), baronets are not members of The Peerage or of the nobility but are classed as commoners.
Baronets have fallen traditionally into the category known as the landed gentry, well-off but non-titled landowners.
Previously, the abbreviated suffix Bart was used after a baronet's name. Nowadays, this is further abbreviated to Bt.
The English Naval Infantry, which may be viewed as the forerunner of the Royal Marines, was founded in 1664. The Marines were founded in 1755.
In the Royal Navy of Jane Austen's period, the rank of Lieutenant would have been a fairly senior one. Lieutenants usually began their shipboard careers as young boys known as Midshipmen. They often came from wealthy families, and had to pass examinations in order to be promoted. However, a 'Lieutenant of Marines' may have followed a different career path.
The West Indies refers to the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coastlines. Many of the islands were colonised by the British and became that part of the British Empire known as the British West Indies. From the mid 17th century onwards, sugar plantations were developed on these islands, their main source of labour being African slaves. As we learn later in the novel, Sir Thomas Bertram has business interests in a plantation in Antigua.
Woolwich is a district of south London situated in the London Borough of Greenwich. Until the late 19th century it was part of Kent. In the time of Mansfield Park, it was the home of the Woolwich Dockyard, the Royal Arsenal, the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Horse Artillery. Lady Bertram's sister may have had some, or all, of these institutions in mind when speculating on possible openings for her son.
The term the East has traditionally been used to refer collectively to a large number of non-European countries, including those of the Indian subcontinent. Some people would distinguish between the Near East (often used interchangeably with the Middle East), India, and the Far East.
The Near/Middle East has generally referred to the countries of Western Asia and North Africa, while the term Far East has covered a range of East Asian countries including China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea. The term the Orient has also been used interchangeably with the East, particularly the Far East.
It is now recognised that these terms are heavily loaded ones, redolent of colonization, imperialism and Eurocentric thinking. In particular, the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Wadie Saïd has drawn attention to how Orientalism (the study of various Asian cultures by Europeans) has yielded a prejudiced, and often pejorative, view of numerous non-European cultures.
Readers of Jane Austen's period would probably have associated the East with the activities of the British East India Company which, from the early 17th century onwards, traded with the East Indies and China. Amongst the goods traded by the company were cotton, silk, tea, opium, indigo and saltpetre.
The guinea was a gold coin minted in Britain between 1663 and 1813. During its period of usage, its value fluctuated between 20 shillings (one pound) and thirty shillings. Following the Great Recoinage of 1816, the guinea was replaced by the sovereign. However, the term guinea was used right up until the decimalisation of the British currency in 1971 to indicate a value of 21 shillings. Typically, it was used to suggest that something was cheaper than it was, as eight guineas (for example) sounded less expensive than eight pounds and eight shillings.
The half guinea gold coin was introduced in 1669 and was also discontinued in the Great Recoinage of 1816.
Asia Minor is an old name for that part of Turkey known as Anatolia. The area is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Armenian Highland and Iran to the East, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west.