In 1785, Jane Austen was ten years old, and in that short span of time, the world had experienced remarkable change. Scottish millwright, Andrew Meikle, invents the threshing machine that will start an agricultural revolution. Because fewer workers are required to work the land, many thousands will migrate to the cities or emigrate to the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and towns, such as Manchester and Birmingham, will become major manufacturing centers and experience explosive growth. Vincent Lunardi conducts the first balloon ascent in England. American, Ezekiel Reed, makes a nail-making machine. Just think about that one. Prior to 1785, nails had to be handmade one at a time.
In music, Mozart, Haydn, Paganini, and Salieri are composing, and in 1778, child prodigy, Ludwig von Beethoven, is presented by his father to the public. (Although Dad said he was six, he was actually eight.) Sheridan writes The School for Scandal, which is still performed on stages throughout the world. Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, William Blake, Washington Irving, Schiller, and Cowper are composing prose and verse. Joshua Reynolds paints Mary Robinson as Perdita, Canova sculpts a tomb for a pope, and the construction of the Brighton Pavilion is a work in progress.
In 1781, the American Revolution comes to an end with the defeat of the British at Yorktown in Virginia. Marie Antoinette is immersed in the Diamond Necklace Affair in 1785, which will be one rung on the ladder leading to the French Revolution, and William Pitt the Younger forms a government.
Jane Austen was an intelligent, curious child. How much did she know about the world around her? I imagine a great deal.
P.S. I hope you will read Southerner's comment on this post.