In a famous passage from Charlotte Brontë's novel, Jane Eyre identifies herself with 'millions' in 'ferment', 'in silent revolt against their lot'. Elsewhere, she compares herself to a missionary preaching liberty to the enslaved, helping them secure their freedom. Her imagination is shaped by historical events, and yet Brontë is usually thought to be careless about dates and historical markers in Jane Eyre. In this groundbreaking study, Sue Thomas convincingly dates the action and setting of the novel, and analyses the worldly consciousness of Brontë's characters and of Brontë herself. She addresses the articulation of questions of imperial history and relations, reform, racialization and the making of Englishness in the novel. Her examination of an 1848 stage adaptation of Jane Eyre for a predominantly working-class audience and of an 1859 Caribbean reworking of the novel illuminate the limits of Brontë's social imaginary.