The island of Antigua (now part of a two-island nation known as Antigua and Barbuda) is situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It was settled by the English in 1632 and remained under British rule almost continuously until 1981. From about 1674 onwards, sugar cane became the island's main crop, and African slaves became the main work force of the plantations.
Britain made slave trading illegal in 1807 with the passing of the Slave Trade Act, and slavery itself was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833 following the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act. Clearly, then, the issue of slave trading and the employment of slaves on plantations would have been one of great contemporary significance in the period of Mansfield Park. Later in the novel, Fanny Price (talking about a conversation she has had with Sir Thomas Bertram) says, 'Did not you hear me ask him about the slave trade?' However, it is not made clear in what spirit the question is asked, or what exactly are Sir Thomas Bertram's views on the brutal exploitation which would have been at the heart of his business interests in Antigua.
Norfolk is one of England's historical counties, situated on its east coast just below the Wash. It lies to the north of Suffolk and shares its western border with parts of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.
Jane Austen had two brothers who served in the Royal Navy and were involved in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Her younger brother, Sir Charles John Austen (1779-1852), rose to the rank of Rear Admiral, while her older brother, Sir Francis William Austen (1774-1865), achieved the highest rank of all, Admiral of the Fleet.
Her hand soft touching, whispered thus: Awake
My fairest, my espoused, my latest found
Heaven's last best gift, my ever new delight.
(Book 5. 1. 18-20)
Presumably, Mrs. Grant is referring to the London home of Admiral Crawford and Mrs Crawford, who were unhappily married. Hill Street is situated in London's Mayfair, which was developed (principally by the Grosvenor family) as a fashionable residential area in the 17th and 18th centuries.
There was significant interest in architectural engravings during the 18th century. Between 1715 and 1725, the Scottish architect Colen Campbell produced the three volumes known as Vitruvius Britannicus, or the British Architect, and this was followed up by two additional volumes with the same title by James Gandon and John Woolfe in 1769 and 1771.
Horseracing (as we understand the term today) first took place in Newmarket in 1605. It was banned during the Cromwellian period, but became popular again in the late 17th and early 18th century when Queen Anne played a part in establishing Royal Ascot. The Jockey Club, the sport's regulatory body, was founded in 1750.
Today, there are 60 racecourses in Britain, including those at Bath, Beverley and Brighton, venues which by the 18th century were all associated with horseracing. There may, of course, have been other racecourses beginning with 'B' in operation in the 18th and early 19th century!
Amongst the English aristocracy and landed gentry, the 'coming out' of a young woman marked her transition from child to adult, and formally signalled her availability for marriage.
Young aristocratic and upper class women were known as debutantes, and from the early 18th century onwards it was customary for them to appear before the reigning Sovereign at the start of the social season, a ritual known as 'being presented at court'. The last presentations occurred in March 1958, prior to the abolition of the practice by Queen Elizabeth II.
The social season was the period between Easter and August 12th (the start of the grouse-shooting season) when a series of social events took place where debutantes might be seen in public. Apart from balls and dinner parties, some of the most important events were (and, indeed, still are) Royal Ascot, the Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower show.
Baker Street is situated in the Marylebone district of London. It was established as a high-class residential area in the 18th century.
Modern readers will associate the street with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who is described as living at no. 221B. Jane Austen's contemporary readers, of course, would not have made such an association.
The construction of its harbour began in 1749, and it became an important embarkation point and busy garrison town during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars between 1792 and 1815. In the course of the 19th century it also became an extremely popular seaside resort.
An improver was a landscape architect/designer who made changes to the layout of country houses and their surroundings, a fashionable activity in 18th century and early 19th century England.
Amongst the most famous landscape designers of the period were Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1785) and Humphry Repton (1752-1818). Both produced numerous designs for the grounds of English country houses. Brown worked on Alnwick Castle (Northumberland), Chatsworth (Derbyshire), Petworth House (Sussex) and Wimpole Hall (Cambridgeshire); Repton worked on Kenwood House (London), Plas Newydd (Anglesey), Woburn Abbey (Bedfordshire) and Stoneleigh Abbey (Warwickshire). The latter was for 400 years the country seat of the Leighs, relatives of Jane Austen.
It is Humphry Repton who is later recommended to Mr Rushmere by Miss Bertram when he is considering the possibility of 'improving' Sotherton Court.
Many of the descriptions of Sotherton Court are said to be based on aspects (both internal and external) of Stoneleigh Abbey, which Jane Austen visited in 1806. She travelled there with her mother, her sister and her mother's cousin, the Reverend Thomas Leigh, who expected to inherit the estate.