The first half of Victoria’s reign
Queen Victoria’s reign was the longest in the history of England. She came to the throne in 1837 and died in 1901. The nation identify with the Queen because her exemplary way of life and her strict code of behavior made her beloved, especially by the middle classes, who shared her moral and religious views.
The first year of Victoria’s reign was a period of unprecedented material progress, imperial expansion and also one of political developments and social reforms, like the Ten Hours Act of 1847, with limited working hours to ten a day for all labourers. The merits of these achievements partly belonged to the queen, who, in marked contrast with the other European monarchs, reigned constitutionally, avoiding the storm of revolution which spread all over Europe in 1848. She never overruled Parliament and became a mediator above party politics.
During her reign, the two main political parties where the Liberals and the conservatives, who alternated in government. The Liberals promoted a strong campaign for free trade that led to the repeal of the Corn Laws. The Corn Laws were laws which maintained the price of corn artificially high to protect the landed interests.
Between 1838 and 1848 “Chartism” played an important role drawing up the “People’s Charter” in 1838, with called for social reforms and the extension of the right to vote to all male adults. But the Chartism were refused by the House of Commons, and the movements slowly died.
About the foreign policy England was ready to fight wars to protect its trading routes. The first Opium War against China, in 1839-42, gained Britain access to five Chinese ports and the control of Hong Kong. Britain also supported Turkey during the Crimean War, between 1853 and 1856. There was also a dangerous crisis in India where native soldiers threatened British rule in 1857.