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Power, Prose, and PurseLaw, Literature, and Economic Transformations$
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Alison LaCroix, Saul Levmore, and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190873455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190873455.001.0001

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Wealth and Warfare in the Novels of Jane Austen

Wealth and Warfare in the Novels of Jane Austen

(p.151) 6 Wealth and Warfare in the Novels of Jane Austen
Power, Prose, and Purse

Seebany Datta-Barua

Jonathan S. Masur

Oxford University Press

Numerous characters in Austen’s novels have commissions in the army or militia, and several central characters enlist in the navy. There was an important distinction between these two services. Officers in the army and militia were paid wages. Sailors, on the other hand, were entitled not just to wages but also to a share in the value of any “prizes” that they captured at sea. We theorize that this prize system existed because naval officers and crew needed to be given equity shares in their endeavors in order to create incentives for aggressive action. This distinction between how soldiers and sailors were paid has a profound effect on the development of Austen’s characters. The army is a force for the status quo. The navy, on the other hand, is an avenue for true social advancement. Austen also uses the choice between services to show the character of the individuals who enlist.

Keywords:   Austen, prize system, navy, militia, social mobility, Napoleon, incentives, externalities

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