The Brontë Novels as Historical Fiction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The article looks at the Brontës' reasons for setting the action of their novels in the past, from the late-18th-century setting of "Wuthering Heights" to the twenty-year backdating of "Agnes Grey". The bulk of the article, however, deals with Charlotte Brontë's condition-of-England novel "Shirley".

Like other well-known nineteenth-century novelists, including Dickens and Thackeray, the Brontë sisters wrote fiction set in the past. Indeed, the main action in all their novels is backdated by at least one generation. This article explores reasons for the three writers’ respective choices of temporal framework, looking at works by all of them in the historical contexts to which they supposedly belong. The bulk of the analysis is devoted to the only Brontë book that may be called a condition-of-England novel, Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley. The paper addresses the stereoscopic properties of the action in that novel, Luddism prefiguring Chartism. Showing how past and present coalesce in the book’s portrayal of Yorkshire and Britain, this paper supplies an outline of what, to Charlotte Brontë, made Britain great.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Literatures


  • Brontë, historical novel, Jane Eyre, politics in literature, Shirley
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-282
JournalBrontë Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch