1. The Victorian Age
The Victorian age is a very long period of English history. It begins after Queen Victoria, on 1837, and ends on 1901. About the features of this period, they are many and complex.
The Victorian Age was a period of progress, stability and great social reforms but in the same time was characterized by poverty, injustice and social unrest. In fact, on one hand, there were positive aspects, like a gradual progress in society, science and economy. On the other hand, there were negative aspects, like serious problems in society, but also in the moral and intellectual field.
The coexistence of positive and negative aspects in society took the name of “Victorian Compromise”.
On the economic level, this period is characterized by the building and creation of the British Empire: Britain, in this period, became one of the most important sea powers. Also, Britain expands its colonies for two reasons: firstly, for the precious raw materials; secondly, because it was an important way of competing with the other European countries, so, it was a way to increase its economic power.
If on one hand there were some positive aspects, on the other hand there were many negative aspects: owners needed more workhand, so they assumed people who cost less but work more, that is to say women and children. So, this caused the exploitation of women and children.
Another aspect is the building of Workhouses. The idea was to give a social assistance to workers, but in really, this was a very poor social assistance: Male and female were separated, sanitation was bad and food was little and not of quality.
However, for the first time in Europe, this exploitation started to be contrasted thanks many fights of trade unions (an organization of workers). In fact, thanks those fights, workers obtain better condition.
The reform Bills were an important step to improve the conditions of workers.
The first Reform Bill of 1832 gave greater political representation to middle class. Then the reform Bill of 1867 guarantees the right to vote to all working men in the towns. Then with the reform Bill of 1975, the government recognized trade unions. So thanks trade unions slums and exploitation of children and women were improved gradually.
Also in this period born the Socialist ideas and organizations, thanks to the philosophy of Karl Marx. In fact, intellectuals shared their ideas because they believe they could improve people conditions.
In fact, the Victorian age was characterized by some moral rules: there was the Victorian puritanism, based on obedience of religious values, and that promoted a code of values based on personal duty, hard work, respectability and charity.
However, Victorian puritanism was full of hypocrisy: The category of “fallen women”, adulterers or unmarried mothers or prostitutes, was condemned and emarginated.
Sexuality was generally repressed and prudery in its most extreme manifestations led to the denunciation of nudity in art and the rejection of words with sexual connotation from everyday vocabulary.
Also, the first category that could understand the contradictions of these rules is not the population, but are the intellectuals, and for this reason, there are some reactions in the intellectual field.
The Victorian Compromise
The Victorian Age was a period of progress, stability and great social reforms but in the same time was characterized by poverty, injustice and social unrest.
In fact, on one hand, there were positive aspects, like the colonial expansion, the increase of factories and the birth of trade unions (the first organization of workers in Europe). On the other hand, there were negative aspects, like the overcrowding of cities, the exploitation of women and children (because they work more and cost less), the building of Workhouses and the growth of slums.
So, on the social level there is the coexistence of positive and negative aspects, and this particular situation take the name of “Victorian Compromise”.
John Stuart Mill
Not in philosophical, but in his essays, he spoke about religion and freedom; but he spoke about many problems, as the subjection of women. That was the beginning of European feminism. In fact, Mill underlines the importance of women and spoke about the same social and economic rights for women. So these are revolutionary ideas in this period. In England the women of feminist movement was called suffragettes, because they wanted the right to vote.
He was not a philosopher, but an historical of art. His work: the Stones of Venice was important for art, in fact the base of his work was the architectural aspect of Italian cities. He contrasted the Victorian puritanism: factories caused the ugliness of landscape and cities, so he exalted the renaissance architecture in Italian cities.