So, there’s this Jane Austen game that people keep pointing me to with great excitement. There’s been some conversation in the community because all of the characters in the prototype are white. Their FAQ says:
Will you provide choices in race and ethnicity? We will provide historically accurate racial diversity. This only becomes an issue where we get into aristocracy and with ethnicities that had not yet migrated to England at that time. If the historical accuracy interferes with the fun of the game rather than adding to it, we reserve the right to decide to ignore it further in development. For now we believe that we can manage these issues and maintain the historical accuracy without conflict.
Which makes just makes me want to say, “Have you read Sanditon?” In Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel, she included “Miss Lambe, a young West Indian of large fortune in delicate health.”
She had several more under her care than the three who were now come to Sanditon, but the others all happened to be absent. Of these three, and indeed of all. Miss Lambe was beyond comparison the most important and precious, as she paid in proportion to her fortune. She was about seventeen, half mulatto, chilly and tender, had a maid of her own, was to have the best room in the lodgings, and was always of the first consequence in every plan of Mrs. Griffiths.
I’ll grant that Miss Lambe is a largely non-speaking role, but please note that she is the most eligible young lady and when you read the partial novel, there are no mentions of “unfortunate” skin tone. There are a number of West Indians in town and their presence is treated matter-of-factly, except for the delight at their fortunes. In fact, a significant number of Jane Austen’s heroines have a brown complexion. Are they West Indian? No, or she would have said so, but it’s worth noting that she did not consider a lily-white complexion a thing of beauty.
‘[Henry Crawford], was not handsome; no, when they first saw him, he was absolutely plain, black and plain; but still he was the gentleman, –Mansfield Park
By the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is your favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?” “I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown–not fair, and–and not very dark.” “Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney–’a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion–do you know–I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.” –Northanger Abbey
Emma Watson was not more than of the middle height, well made and plump, with an air of healthy vigour. Her skin was very brown, but clear, smooth, and glowing, which, with a lively eye, a sweet smile, and an open countenance, gave beauty to attract, and expression to make that beauty improve on acquaintance. […]The next morning brought a great many visitors. It was the way of the place always to call on Mrs. Edwards the morning after a ball, and this neighbourly inclination was increased in the present instance by a general spirit of curiosity on Emma`s account, as everybody wanted to look again at the girl who had been admired the night before by Lord Osborne. Many were the eyes, and various the degrees of approbation with which she was examined. Some saw no fault, and some no beauty. With some her brown skin was the annihilation of every grace, and others could never be persuaded that she was half so handsome as Elizabeth Watson had been ten years ago. –The Watsons
Miss Dashwood had a delicate complexion, regular features, and a remarkably pretty figure. Marianne was still handsomer. Her form, though not so correct as her sister’s, in having the advantage of height, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when, in the common cant of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged than usually happens. Her skin was very brown, but, from its transparency, her complexion was uncommonly brilliant; her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive; and in her eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, an eagerness, which could hardily be seen without delight. –Sense and Sensibility
“Did you ever see such a skin? — such smoothness! such delicacy! — and yet without being actually fair. –One cannot call her fair. It is a most uncommon complexion, with her dark eye-lashes and hair — a most distinguishing complexion! So peculiarly the lady in it. –Just colour enough for beauty.” “I have always admired her complexion,” replied Emma, archly; “but do not I remember the time when you found fault with her for being so pale? –When we first began to talk of her. –Have you quite forgotten?” –Emma–
To say nothing of the embassies in London, which means pretty much every ethnicity was represented in the aristocracy. Outnumbered by white people? Sure. But to imply that historical accuracy might prevent having a diverse range of choices is ignoring your source material.