Led by Edward Said in his 1978 book Orientalism, some critics have argued that Jane Austen covertly condones the transatlantic slave trade in her novels. Their argument rests on such mentions as this, by Mrs Smith, of incomes generated from properties in the West Indies, where slaves worked on English-owned sugar plantations.
In Austen's novel Mansfield Park, the slave trade features more heavily: Sir Thomas Bertram, the main patriarchal figure, has properties in Antigua, and the politics of the 1807 Abolition of the slave trade are discussed. However, as this article argues, Said's criticism is based on a shallow understanding of Austen's novels; closer readings have revealed Austen's clear Abolitionist sympathies. Further, as Persuasion is set after 1807, claims of subtextual links to slavery are unfounded.
See Gabrielle White's book Jane Austen in the Context of Abolition: 'A Fling at the Slave Trade' .