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Lesson Objectives:

  • Identify the social, political, and economic changes that came about in Great Britain during the Victorian Age.
  • Describe the important democratic reforms made in Great Britain during the Victorian Age
  • Understand the extent and influence of the British Empire in the world

After the death of King William IV of England in 1837, the crown passed to a German princess named Victoria. Queen Victoria ruled England from 1837 until 1901. The Victorian Era was known for political reform and stability, general peace, and e expansion abroad, a strong growing economy, social reform, and a growing feeling among many that the world was a safer place to live.

Unlike other countries, England did not experience much suffering during the revolutions of 1848. The English people were not as demanding of change since the government was willing to pass reforms, and the English middle class was gaining political power through democratic means.

Around 1860, Queen Victoria accepted the idea that the political party with the most representatives in the House of Commons should form the Government. The old idea was that the King or Queen formed the Government. As a result, both political parties (the Liberals and Conservatives) realized that to become the majority party, they would have to gain the support of the middle and lower classes. To gain such support, reforms were mandatory. This was good for England and its people because the reforms passed made life easier for the people. The most important reform was the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1867 which gave twice as many people the right to vote as before. Most the new voters were working men. England was only involved in one war during this time. This was the Crimean War, which lasted from 1854-1856, was fought in the southwestern section of Russia called the Crimea. English participation in the Crimean War was not good foreign policy. England joined France and Turkey in the war against the Russians. English general and soldiers were not prepared to fight. In one battle alone, 700 soldiers of the Light Brigade (a respected English force) attacked the Russians. Only 195 soldiers survived. Only 195 soldiers survived. The war dragged on, but when civil war threatened to break out, Russia agreed to peace. The only result of the war was that Russia agreed not to become involved in Turkish affairs.

England’s economy was prospering very well during the Victorian era, largely due to the fact that the colonies were providing English factories with cheap raw materials. When the raw materials were made into finished products, they were sold back to the colonies. England had a ready market in the colonies and their economy was a direct result of the vast British Empire.

A new working class of people emerged during this new era, and though it was lower on the economic and social scale, it was very large. The middle class was very small compared to the working class. It remained small into the twentieth century. In England, prosperous industrialists were competing with wealthy landowners for political power. Supporting these wealthy individuals was the working class, who worked long hours six days a week in the factories and coal mines under terrible working conditions. Additionally, their life expectancy was short compared to the wealthy upper class.

By the end of Victoria’s reign, England controlled much of the world’s trade. The working class was making progress in the area of working conditions and their lifestyles were improving. This was because many of the working class people were represented in the House of Commons. Reforms which benefited the English people were a public health bill, a bill to improve housing, and a bill for land reform.

There was a strict code of moral conduct during the Victorian Era, largely designed by the middle class. It was very important to be respectable. People broke the moral code of the day, but it was secretive and not discussed. This was a common theme written about during the Victorian Era. Charles Dickens was the most famous writer of the time. His books were about the common people, the way they lived, worked, what they thought, and the way they interacted with each other.

It is generally believed that the Victorian Era was the best in English history. England was at the height of power with a large empire, a strong naval force, a prosperous economy and excellent leadership. People believed that war was in the past and they were optimistic about the future. Lesson 24 Review

Directions: For each question, present the answer in complete sentences with supporting information from the Lesson. Do not copy and paste from the Lessons or Internet resources, but answer in your own words to demonstrate understanding of the material.

1. Why was there no revolution in England?

2. What was the result of the Crimean War?

3. Describe the conditions of the English working class during the nineteenth century. What were the social norms of the Victorian Era?

4. Who accumulated the wealth during the Victorian Era? Why was the English economy so strong? Who received the most benefit from the strong economy?

5. Explain why historians believe the Victorian Era was the best in English history. Be specific.

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