Jane Austen wrote books that make a great accompaniment to any history curriculum, and there are numerous fun products available to make it fun. Her books are classics for a reason – she was a gifted writer who could tell a story with humor, suspense, and had an amazing gift for creating hilarious characters. If you’ve only watched the movies based on her books, you are missing half the fun. Go right now and pick up one – any one – today!
We study history chronologically at our house, so the 19th Century was be a busy one! (Read my post on our Custom History Curriculum.) Around the same time that we study the French Revolution and Lewis and Clark, we read and study Jane Austen. This is mostly for high schoolers, but in my house, everyone’s been exposed to her movies, and the older girls have read a novel or two.
Read about her short life and career here. She never married and had no children. Her nephew wrote her biography, which is available here.
Teaching History with Jane Austen
She lived and wrote during some very exciting historical periods. Born in England in 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution, she grew up during the French Revolution, and wrote during what is known as the Regency period. Her stories all take place in this time.
The Regency period is the time when King George III had gone mad, and was declared unfit to rule. His son, the Prince Regent, ruled in his place. Upon the death of the king, the prince became King George IV.
Resources I recommend for Regency England:
Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson
Jane Austen’s England by Roy & Lesley Adkins
Georgett Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester (Heyer was a Regency novelist in her own right)
The English Gentleman by David Castronovo
Each of Austen’s novels paint a picture of Regency England, focusing mainly on the “gentle folk.” Occasional mentions are made of the lower classes, but this is rare.
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
My favorite is Pride and Prejudice, but I love Mansfield Park, too. It’s got a great story and the last chapter sums it up beautifully.
Annotated Versions: I own all and have read some of the annotated versions. My favorite annotated versions are by David M. Shepard. These are excellent for the Jane Austen fan, or for students, with lots of background and explanations on every page.
Hardback editions: I love these Penguin Classic hardcover editions. They are great for book collectors. I am actually doing an altered book project with the Pride and Prejudice version.
Audio books: As usual, I recommend Audible for reading and listening. Although I own the books in print form, I also enjoy them in audio form. My favorite versions are narrated by Juliet Stevenson. She does a wonderful job. Incidentally, she plays Mrs. Elton in the 1996 movie version of Emma. If you click on the Audible link at the top of my blog, you will get two free books for signing up. If you join and comment below, I’ll give you a THIRD book free!
There have been many versions of Jane Austen’s novels adapted to the screen, and everyone has their favorites; I have mine, too!
Sense and Sensibility – 1995 movie starring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant
Emma – 1996 movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam
Pride and Prejudice – 1995 BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth
There are other film versions, and other Austen books adapted to film, but these are my top three. They are my go-to for a relaxing movie while I sew or fold laundry.
More Books I Love
Jane Austen: A Companion by Josephine Ross
The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan (Proper life skills from Regency England)
Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners by Josephine Ross
The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen (Quotes from her novels, letters, and diaries) by Dominique Enright
The Official Jane Austen website has every link imaginable for fans, readers, teachers, trips, and more.
Jane Austen Paper Dolls from The Book Depository
Anatomy of a Regency Letter and lots of other fun stuff at Her Reputation for Accomplishment
A Man’s Guide to Jane Austen by Daniel Bearman
Jane Austen paper dolls at Practical Pages
Marrying Mr. Darcy – the Pride and Prejudice card game
Pride and Prejudice board game
Have a Jane Austen Tea Party or get the Jane Austen cookbook
Play the music and learn to dance
Make tiny versions of her books for decorations
There is so much available to the Jane Austen fan that I could not possibly include it all here. But follow my Jane Austen Pinterest board for the rest!
This study can be one novel and a chosen book about the Regency period, or can be as in-depth as your student would like. I have a friend who taught Pride and Prejudice in our home school co-op. They read a portion of the book each week, watched part of the 1995 BBC movie, and studied the background and culture of Regency England. She ended the semester with a proper tea party! It was a very thorough and fun class.
Be sure to check out my Homeschooling and History pages for more like this.
While you’re here, visit my Knowledge Keepers Bookstore! In it you’ll find the books and the stories that have shaped this great country, the books that influenced our founders and our ancestors, the books that Americans have mostly ignored or never heard of, but the good books that we should all read and protect. Join me in saving Western Civilization, one book at a time!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Board of Directors. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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