The second page of Austen's The History of England, with illustrations by Cassandra Austen

Jane Austen’s Mock History Book

Working with her sister, Cassandra, the teenaged Austen composed a satirical send-up of England's monarchs.
Part of a painting by Paul Sandby of Reading Abbey Gateway

The Reading Abbey Girls’ School

This all-girls boarding school in England produced a generation of accomplished female writers in the eighteenth century.
The slave ship Diligente was engaged in the illegal slave trade when it was seized in 1838. A lieutenant in the British Royal Navy painted this scene from the ship.

The Unbearable Middle Passage

In the eighteenth century, doctors recognized melancholy as a disease endemic to groups forcibly displaced from their homes, particularly enslaved Africans.
Natural Lace from the Lace Bark Tree

Lacebark as a Symbol of Resilience

For the enslaved people of Jamaica, the lacebark tree was a valuable natural resource and a means of asserting one's dignity.
An illustration from The surprising adventures of a female husband! by Henry Fielding

The Female Husband is So Eighteenth Century

Henry Fielding's novel, a fictional account of the life of Charles Hamilton, conflates vagrancy with sexual, gender, and religious deviance.
Captain Misson, described by Captain Charles Johnson as the founder of a fictional "pirate utopia" called Libertalia or Libertatia.

Return to Pirate Island

The history of piracy illustrates a surprising connection to democratic Utopian radicalism—and, of course, stolen treasure.
Soap Bubbles by Jean Simeon Chardin, ca.1733

The Soap Bubble Trope

Throughout the history of philosophy, literature, art, and science, people have been fascinated with the shimmering surfaces of soap bubbles.
Interior of a London Coffee-house, 17th century

The News Junkies of the Eighteenth Century

Hooked on viral news (or is it gossip?), today's Twitter hordes owe a lot to history's coffeehouses.
Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the the Ladies of Llangollen

Who Were the Ladies of Llangollen?

Top hat connoisseurs, friends of princesses and poets, tchotchke models, dog lovers, cottage keepers...lesbians?