Victorian England

Through the Ages – Victorian England

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901, this is commonly referred to as the Victorian Age.

The most common form of entertainment in Victorian England was reading aloud and then discussing the topic. Writers such as Dickens and Tennyson were widely read and discussed.

Education was made more accessible for the lower classes, and compulsory education, introduced after 1870, meant literature was much more in demand.

With the Industrial Revolution, migration of the population from country to city resulted in overcrowded cities and slums. The cities had areas based on social class – the poor in the inner city, with the more fortunate living in the suburbs. This was made possible by the development of a suburban rail network.

The growth of commuter rail gave birth the seaside resort. As the Industrial Revolution progressed and manual labour was replaced by machinery, working hours decreased, and workers had time to take trips away to the seaside. With the seaside resorts came the amusement piers. Some of the more famous were at Blackpool and Brighton.

The Industrial Revolution meant that power shifted from the aristocracy, whose position and wealth was based on land, to the newly rich business leaders. The new aristocracy became one of wealth, not land, although titles still remained important in British society.

During the reign of Queen Victoria, the question being whether or not the Irish should be allowed to rule themselves emerged. Prime Minister, Gladstone was a constant activist for increased Irish autonomy, but his views were not widely supported. Irish extremists began a campaign of terrorism which is still with us today.

The Victorians were the first to call into question the institution of Christianity on a large scale.

There was no social security in Victorian England. The government did not protect English men, women, and children from the personal economic disaster created by unemployment by paying an unemployment benefit, giving assistance in finding another job, or arranging and funding job retraining. When workers lost their paid jobs, they had to fall back on their savings, their trade union, their credit with local shopkeepers, their neighbours and friends. When they grew old or infirm, they were lost unless helped by their children.

Picadilly Circus 1894Copyright © 2001 by Elizabeth Stegenga

There was a very strong class system in Victorian England.

The Upper Classes were typically: Royalty, nobility, aristocracy and gentry, families of new capitalists.

The Middle Classes comprised: professionals — physicians, attorneys, writers, engineers,
writers, members of religious orders

Lower Middle Classes would include: hoteliers, publicans, tradeswomen, lodging house keepers, governesses and teachers.

Lower Classes would include: seamstresses, farm, factory, and mine workers, washerwomen, and domestic servants.

Deserving poor: unemployed, underemployed, victims of injury and illness

Undeserving poor, criminals, prostitutes.

The Victorian age has connotations of being old fashioned and repressed, but it was an era of great industrial, social and economic growth.

Another Through the Ages article coming soon…