Victorian Era 1837–1901
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tudor period (1485–1603)
Elizabethan era (1558–1603)
Stuart period (1603–1714)
Jacobean era (1603–1625)
Caroline era (1625–1642)
Georgian era (1714–1830)
British Regency (1811–1820)
Victorian era (1837–1901)
Edwardian era (1901–1910)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Victorian era of the United Kingdom was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from June 1837 until her death on the 22nd of January 1901. The reign was a long period of prosperity for the British people, as profits gained from the overseas British Empire, as well as from industrial improvements at home, allowed an educated middle class to develop. Some scholars extend the beginning of the period—as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political games that have come to be associated with the Victorians—back five years to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.
The era was preceded by the Georgian period and succeeded by the Edwardian period. The latter half of the Victorian era roughly coincided with the first portion of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the United States.
The era is often characterized as a long period of peace, known as the Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily disrupted by the Crimean War, although Britain was at war every year during this time. Towards the end of the century, the policies of New Imperialism led to increasing colonial conflicts and eventually the Anglo-Zanzibar War and the Boer War. Domestically, the agenda was increasingly liberal with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political reform and the widening of the voting franchise.
The population of England had almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901. Ireland’s population decreased rapidly, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901. At the same time, around 15 million emigrants left the United Kingdom in the Victorian era and settled mostly in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
During the early part of the era, the House of Commons was headed by the two parties, the Whigs and the Tories. From the late 1850s onwards, the Whigs became the Liberals; the Tories became the Conservatives. These parties were led by many prominent statesmen including Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, William Ewart Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, and Lord Salisbury. The unsolved problems relating to Irish Home Rule played a great part in politics in the later Victorian era, particularly in view of Gladstone's determination to achieve a political settlement. Indeed these issues would eventually lead to the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent domino effect that would play a large part in the fall of the empire.
The reign of Victoria is the longest in British history; it would be exceeded if the present monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) remains on the throne to 2017.
See also: Victorianism, Victorian architecture, Victorian decorative arts, and Victorian fashion Gothic Revival architecture became increasingly significant in the period, leading to the Battle of the Styles between Gothic and Classical ideals. Charles Barry's architecture for the new Palace of Westminster, which had been badly damaged in an 1834 fire, built in the medieval style of Westminster Hall, the surviving part of the building. It constructed a narrative of cultural continuity, set in opposition to the violent disjunctions of Revolutionary France, a comparison common to the period, as expressed in Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution: A History, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Gothic was also supported by the critic John Ruskin, who argued that it epitomised communal and inclusive social values, as opposed to Classicism, which he considered to epitomise mechanical standardisation.
The middle of the 19th century saw The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World's Fair, and showcased the greatest innovations of the century. At its centre was the Crystal Palace, a modular glass and iron structure - the first of its kind. It was condemned by Ruskin as the very model of mechanical dehumanisation in design, but later came to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography, which was showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art with Queen Victoria being the first British Monarch to be photographed. John Everett Millais was influenced by photography (notably in his portrait of Ruskin) as were other Pre-Raphaelite artists. It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl.
Passage of the first Reform Act.
Ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne.
New Zealand becomes a British colony, through the Treaty of Waitangi.
Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield. He had been naturalised and granted the British style of Royal Highness beforehand. For the next 17 years, he was known as HRH Prince Albert
Birth of the Queen's first child The Princess Victoria. Within months she was granted the title Princess Royal
Birth of the Queen's heir-apparent The Prince Albert Edward, Duke of Cornwall (Duke of Rothesay). He was swiftly made Prince of Wales
Massacre of Elphinstone's Army by the Afghans in Afghanistan results in the death or incarceration of 16,500 soldiers and civilians. The Mines Act of 1842 banned women/children from working in coal, iron, lead and tin mining. The Illustrated London News was first published.
Birth of The Princess Alice
Birth of The Prince Alfred
The Irish famine begins. Within 5 years it would become the UK's worst human disaster, with starvation and emigration reducing the population of Ireland itself by over 50%. The famine permanently changed Ireland’s and Scotland's demographics and became a rallying point for nationalist sentiment that pervaded British politics for much of the following century. 1846
Repeal of the Corn Laws.
Birth of The Princess Helena
Death of around 2,000 people a week in a cholera epidemic.
Birth of The Princess Louise
Restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Britain.
Birth of The Prince Arthur
The Great Exhibition (the first World's Fair) was held at the Crystal Palace, with great success and international attention. The Victorian gold rush. In ten years the Australian population nearly tripled.
Birth of The Prince Leopold
Crimean War: The United Kingdom declared war on Russia.
The Indian Mutiny, a widespread revolt in India against the rule of the British East India Company, was sparked by sepoys (native Indian soldiers) in the Company's army. The rebellion, involving not just sepoys but many sectors of the Indian population as well, was largely quashed within a year. In response to the mutiny, the East India Company was abolished in August 1858 and India came under the direct rule of the British crown, beginning the period of the British Raj. Prince Albert was given the title The Prince Consort
Birth of The Princess Beatrice
The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, responded to the Orsini plot against French emperor Napoleon III, the bombs for which were purchased in Birmingham, by attempting to make such acts a felony, but the resulting uproar forced him to resign.
Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, which led to various reactions. Victoria and Albert's first grandchild, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, is born — he would later become William
II, German Emperor
Death of Prince Albert; Queen Victoria refused to go out in public for many years, and when she did she wore a widow's bonnet instead of the crown.
The Prince of Wales marries Princess Alexandra of Denmark at Windsor.
An angry crowd in London, protesting against John Russell's resignation as Prime Minister, was barred from Hyde Park by the police; they tore down iron railings and trampled on flower beds. Disturbances like this convinced Derby and Disraeli of the need for further parliamentary reform. 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 passes and British North America becomes Dominion of Canada. 1875
Britain purchased Egypt's shares in the Suez Canal as the African nation was forced to raise money to pay off its debts.
The Princess Alice becomes Grand Duchess of Hesse when her husband succeeds as Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse
Treaty of Berlin (1878). Cyprus becomes a Crown colony. The Princess Alice dies. Princess Louise's husband The Marchioness of Lorne is appointed Governor-General of Canada 1879
Victoria and Albert's first great-grandchild, Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, is born. 1882
British troops began the occupation of Egypt by taking the Suez Canal, in order to secure the vital trade route and passage to India, and the country became a protectorate.
Princess Louise and Lord Lorne return from Canada
The Fabian Society was founded in London by a group of middle class intellectuals, including Quaker Edward R. Pease, Havelock Ellis, and E. Nesbit, to promote socialism. Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany dies.
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and the Liberal Party tries passing the First Irish Home Rule Bill, but the bill is rejected by the House of Commons.
The serial killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered and mutilated five (and possibly more) prostitutes on the streets of London. Victoria's eldest daughter, the Princess Royal becomes German Empress when her husband succeeds as Frederick III, German Emperor. Within months, Frederick dies, and their son becomes William II, German Emperor. The widowed Vicky becomes the Dowager Empress as is known as "Empress Frederick".
1870 - 1891
Under the Elementary Education Act 1870, basic State Education became free for every child under the age of 10.
Victoria and Albert's last grandchild, Prince Maurice of Battenberg, is born. 1892
The Prince of Wales' eldest son Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence dies of influenza. His place in the succession is taken by his brother Prince George of Wales (later Duke of York and eventually George V).
The Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh succeeds as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when his uncle dies. The Duchy skips over The Prince of Wales due to his renunciation of his succession rights to that Duchy.
Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha dies. His nephew Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany succeeds him, because his brother Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and nephew Prince Arthur of Connaught had renounced their rights.
The death of Victoria saw the end of this era, and the ascension of her eldest son, Edward, began the Edwardian era, another time of great change.
Popular forms of entertainment varied by social class. Victorian Britain, like the periods before it, was interested in theatre and the arts, and music, drama, and opera were widely attended. There were, however, other forms of entertainment. Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos was wildly popular during the period: so much so that evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking, and prostitution.
Brass bands and 'The Bandstand' became popular in the Victorian era. The band stand was a simple construction that not only created an ornamental focal point, but also served acoustic requirements whilst providing shelter from the changeable British weather. It was common to hear the sound of a brass band whilst strolling through parklands. At this time musical recording was still very much a novelty.
Another form of entertainment involved 'spectacles' where paranormal events, such as hypnotism, communication with the dead (by way of mediumship or channelling), ghost conjuring and the like, were carried out to the delight of crowds and participants. Such activities were more popular
at this time than in other periods of recent Western history.
Natural history becomes increasingly an "amateur" activity. Particularly in Britain and the United States, this grew into specialist hobbies such as the study of birds, butterflies, seashells (malacology/conchology), beetles and wildflowers. Amateur collectors and natural history entrepreneurs played an important role in building the large natural history collections of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Many people used the train services to visit the seaside, helped by the Bank Holiday Act of 1871 which created a number of fixed holidays which all sectors of society could enjoy. Large numbers travelling to quiet fishing villages such as Worthing, Brighton, Morecambe and Scarborough began turning them into major tourist centres, and people like Thomas Cook saw tourism and even overseas travel as viable businesses.
An important development during the Victorian era was the improvement of communication links. Stage coaches, canals, steam ships and most notably the railways all allowed goods, raw materials and people to be moved about, rapidly facilitating trade and industry. Trains became another important factor ordering society, with "railway time" being the standard by which clocks were set throughout Britain. Steam ships such as the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western made international travel more common but also advanced trade, so that in Britain it was not just the luxury goods of earlier times that were imported into the country but essentials such as corn from the America and meat from Australia. One more important innovation in communications was the Penny Black, the first postage stamp, which standardised postage to a flat price regardless of distance sent.
Even later communication methods such as cinema, telegraph, telephones, cars and aircraft, would have an impact. Photography was realized in 1839 by Louis Daguerre in France and William Fox Talbot in the UK. By 1900, hand-held cameras were available.
Technology and engineering
Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge in BristolSimilar sanitation reforms, prompted by the Public Health Acts 1848 and 1869, were made in the crowded, dirty streets of the existing cities, and soap was the main product shown in the relatively new phenomenon of advertising. A great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London. It was designed by Joseph Bazalgette in 1858. He proposed to build 82 mi (132 km) of sewer system linked with over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) of street sewers. Many problems were encountered but the sewers were completed. After this, Bazalgette designed the Thames Embankment which housed sewers, water pipes and the London Underground. During the same period London's water supply network was expanded and improved, and a gas network for lighting and heating was introduced in the 1880s.
The Victorians were impressed by science and progress, and felt that they could improve society in the same way as they were improving technology. The model town of Saltaire was founded, along with others, as a planned environment with good sanitation and many civic, educational and
recreational facilities, although it lacked a pub, which was regarded as a focus of dissent. During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history. This study of natural history was most powerfully advanced by Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution first published in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859. Glasgow slum in 1871Although initially developed in the early years of the 19th century, gas lighting became widespread during the Victorian era in industry, homes, public buildings and the streets. The invention of the incandescent gas mantle in the 1890s greatly improved light output and ensured its survival as late as the 1960s. Hundreds of gasworks were constructed in cities and towns across the country. In 1882, incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many years before they were installed everywhere.
Health and medicine
Although nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, had been proposed as an anaesthetic as far back as 1799 by Humphry Davy, it wasn't until 1846 when an American Dentist named William Morton started using ether on his patients that anaesthetics became common in the medical profession. In 1847 chloroform was introduced as an anaesthetic by James Young Simpson. Chloroform was favored by doctors and hospital staff because it's much less flammable than ether, but critics complained that it could cause the patient to have a heart attack. Chloroform gained in popularity in England and Germany after Dr. John Snow gave Queen Victoria chloroform for the birth of her eighth child (Prince Leopold). By 1920, chloroform was used in 80 to 95% of all narcoses performed in UK and German-speaking countries.
Anaesthetics made painless dentistry possible. At the same time the European diet grew a great deal sweeter as the use of sugar became more widespread. As a result, more and more people were having teeth pulled and needed replacements. This gave rise to "Waterloo Teeth", which were real human teeth set into hand-carved chunks of ivory from hippopotamus or walrus jaws. The teeth were obtained from executed criminals, victims of battlefields, from grave-robbers, and were even bought directly from the desperately impoverished. Medicine also benefited from the introduction of antiseptics by Joseph Lister in 1867 in the form of Carbolic acid (phenol). He instructed the hospital staff to wear gloves and wash their hands, instruments, and dressings with a phenol solution and, in 1869, he invented a machine that would spray carbolic acid in the operating theatre during surgery.
Working class life in Victorian Wetherby, West Yorkshire19th century Britain saw a huge population increase accompanied by rapid urbanization stimulated by the Industrial Revolution. The large numbers of skilled and unskilled people looking for work kept wages down to barely subsistence level. Available housing was scarce and expensive, resulting in overcrowding. These problems were magnified in London, where the population grew at record rates. Large houses were turned into flats and tenements, and as landlords failed to maintain these dwellings slum housing developed. Kellow Chesney described the situation as follows: "Hideous slums, some of them acres wide, some no more than crannies of obscure misery, make up a substantial part of the metropolis... In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people of all ages may inhabit a single room." (The Victorian Underworld)