This essay is a study of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813) in the context of the social and political debates and scandals surrounding the militia and the regular army in England in the period from 1790 to 1813. I argue that Austen's novel contains a vein of reference to these debates, and that in portraying Wickham she was making a detailed commentary on the new culture of social and sexual mobility that the militia spread across the nation. I argue further that Austen's critique of the militia and its habits drew her into alliance - on this issue at least - with the Whig and radical writers and campaigners whom she is normally thought to have opposed: Cobbett, Leigh Hunt, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. In conclusion, I suggest that the militia helped Austen formulate her discriminating account of the changing gender roles and sexual mores of the Regency period.
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