Victorian era | Wikipedia audio article

Victorian era | Wikipedia audio article


In the history of the United Kingdom, the
Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on
22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period,
and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental
Europe. In terms of moral sensibilities and political reforms, this period began with
the passage of the Reform Act 1832. There was a strong religious drive for higher moral
standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodist, and the Evangelical
wing of the established Church of England. Britain had relatively peaceful relations
with the other Great Powers, excepting during the Crimean War; the Pax Britannica was maintained
by the country’s naval supremacy and industrial supremacy. Britain embarked on global imperial
expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest
empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.Ideologically, the Victorian era witnessed
resistance to the rationalism that defined the Georgian period and an increasing turn
towards romanticism and even mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts.Domestically,
the political agenda was increasingly liberal, with a number of shifts in the direction of
gradual political reform, industrial reform, and the widening of the franchise. There were
unprecedented demographic changes: the population of England and Wales almost doubled from 16.8
million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901, and Scotland’s population also rose rapidly, from
2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901. However, Ireland’s population decreased sharply,
from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901, mostly due to emigration
and the Great Famine. Between 1837 and 1901 about 15 million emigrated from Great Britain,
mostly to the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.The two
main political parties during the era remained the Whigs/Liberals and the Conservatives;
by its end, the Labour Party had formed as a distinct political entity. These parties
were led by such prominent statesmen as Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord
Palmerston, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, 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 in Ireland.==Terminology and periodisation==In the strictest sense, the Victorian era
covers the duration of Victoria’s reign as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Ireland, from her accession on 20 June 1837—after the death of her uncle, William
IV—until her death on 22 January 1901, after which she was succeeded by her eldest son,
Edward VII. Her reign lasted for 63 years and seven months, a longer period than any
of her predecessors. The term ‘Victorian’ was in contemporaneous usage to describe the
era. The era has also been understood in a more extensive sense as a period that possessed
sensibilities and characteristics distinct from the periods adjacent to it, in which
case it is sometimes dated to begin before Victoria’s accession—typically from the
passage of or agitation for (during the 1830s) the Reform Act 1832, which introduced a wide-ranging
change to the electoral system of England and Wales. Definitions that purport a distinct
sensibility or politics to the era have also created scepticism about the worth of the
label “Victorian”, though there have also been defences of it.Michael Sadleir was insistent
that “in truth the Victorian period is three periods, and not one”. He distinguished early
Victorianism – the socially and politically unsettled period from 1837–1850 – and
late Victorianism (from 1880 onwards), with its new waves of Aestheticism and Imperialism,
from the Victorian heyday: mid-Victorianism, 1851 to 1879. He saw the latter period as
characterised by a distinctive mixture of prosperity, domestic prudery, and complacency
– what G. M. Trevelyan similarly called the “mid-Victorian decades of quiet politics
and roaring prosperity”.==Political and diplomatic history=====Early===
In 1832, after much political agitation, the Reform Act was passed on the third attempt.
The Act abolished many borough seats and created others in their place, as well as expanding
the franchise in England and Wales (a Scottish Reform Act and Irish Reform Act were passed
separately). Minor reforms followed in 1835 and 1836. On 20 June 1837, Victoria became Queen of
the United Kingdom on the death of her uncle, William IV. Her government was led by the
Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne, but within two years he had resigned, and the Tory politician
Sir Robert Peel attempted to form a new ministry. In the same year, a seizure of British opium
exports to China prompted the First Opium War against the Qing dynasty, and British
imperial India initiated the First Anglo-Afghan War—one of the first major conflicts of
the Great Game between Britain and Russia.In 1840, Queen Victoria married her German cousin
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield. It proved a very happy marriage, whose children
were much sought after by royal families across Europe. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi established
British sovereignty over New Zealand. The signing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 ended
the First Opium War and gave Britain control over Hong Kong Island. However, a disastrous
retreat from Kabul in the same year led to the annihilation of a British army column
in Afghanistan. In 1845, the Great Famine began to cause mass starvation, disease and
death in Ireland, sparking large-scale emigration; To allow more cheap food into Ireland, the
Peel government repealed the Corn Laws. Peel was replaced by the Whig ministry of Lord
John Russell.In 1853, Britain fought alongside France in the Crimean War against Russia.
The goal was to ensure that Russia could not benefit from the declining status of the Ottoman
Empire, a strategic consideration known as the Eastern Question. The conflict marked
a rare breach in the Pax Britannica, the period of relative peace (1815–1914) that existed
among the Great Powers of the time, and especially in Britain’s interaction with them. On its
conclusion in 1856 with the Treaty of Paris, Russia was prohibited from hosting a military
presence in the Crimea. In October of the same year, the Second Opium War saw Britain
overpower the Qing dynasty in China. During 1857–8, an uprising by sepoys against
the East India Company was suppressed, an event that led to the end of Company rule
in India and the transferral of administration to direct rule by the British government.
The princely states were not affected and remained under British guidance.===Middle===
In 1861, Prince Albert died. In 1867, the second Reform Act was passed, expanding the
franchise, and the British North America Act consolidated the country’s possessions in
that region into a Canadian Confederation.In 1878, Britain was a plenipotentiary at the
Treaty of Berlin, which gave de jure recognition to the independent states of Romania, Serbia,
and Montenegro.==Society and culture=====Evangelicals, Utilitarians and reform
===The central feature of Victorian era politics
is the search for reform and improvement, including both the individual personality
and the society. Three powerful forces were at work. First was the rapid rise of the middle
class, in large part displacing the complete control long exercised by the aristocracy.
Respectability was their code—a businessman had to be trusted, and must avoid reckless
gambling and heavy drinking. Second the spiritual reform closely linked to evangelical Christianity,
including both the Nonconformist sects, such as the Methodists, and especially the evangelical
or Low Church element in the established Church of England, typified by Lord Shaftesbury (1801–1885).
It imposed fresh moralistic values on society, such as Sabbath observance, responsibility,
widespread charity, discipline in the home, and self-examination for the smallest faults
and needs of improvement. Starting with the anti-slavery movement of the 1790s, the evangelical
moralizers developed highly effective techniques of enhancing the moral sensibilities of all
family members, and reaching the public at large through intense, very well organized
agitation and propaganda. They focused on exciting a personal revulsion against social
evils and personal misbehavior. Asa Briggs points out, “There were as many treatises
on ‘domestic economy’ in mid-Victorian England as on political economy”The third effect came
from the philosophical utilitarians, led by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), James Mill (1773–1836)
and his son John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). They were not moralistic but scientific. Their
movement, often called “Philosophic Radicalism,” fashioned a formula for promoting the goal
of “progress” using scientific rationality, and businesslike efficiency, to identify,
measure, and discover solutions to social problems. The formula was inquiry, legislation,
execution, inspection, and report. In public affairs, their leading exponent was Edwin
Chadwick (1800–1890). Evangelicals and utilitarians shared a basic middle-class ethic of responsibility,
and formed a political alliance. The result was an irresistible force for reform.Social
reforms focused on ending slavery, removing the slavery-like burdens on women and children,
and reforming the police in order to prevent crime, rather than emphasizing the very harsh
punishment of criminals. Even more important were political reforms, especially the lifting
of disabilities on nonconformists and Roman Catholics, and above all, the reform of Parliament
and elections to introduce democracy and replace the old system whereby senior aristocrats
controlled dozens of seats in parliament.

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