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Victorian Compromise and the later years of Queen Victoria’s reign


The Victorian Age was a particular period. It was a time of unprecedented change but also of great contradictions: It was an age in which progress, reforms and political stability coexisted with poverty and injustice. Modernity was praised but there was a revival of Gothic and Classicism in art. The Victorians believed in God but also in progress and science. Increasing emphasis was placed on education and hygiene. There was general agreement on the virtues of asserting a social status, keeping up appearances and looking after a family. These things were ‘respectable’. However, respectability was a mixture of morality and hypocrisy, since the unpleasant aspects of society were hidden under exterior respectability. There was growing emphasis on the duty of men to respect and protect women, that controlled the family budget and children. General attitudes to sex were a crucial aspect of respectability, with an intense concern for female chastity, and single women with a child were marginalised as ‘fallen women’.
The later years of Queen Victoria’s reign
When Prince Albert tragically died, Queen Victoria spent the next ten years in mourning. The political panorama of this period was changing with the regrouping of the parties: The Liberal Party, which had evolved from the Whigs, was led by William Gladstone, while the Conservative Party, which had evolved from the Tories , reaffirmed its position under the leadership of Benjamin Disraeli.
For a short period, Disraeli became Prime Minister. During his government many act was passed: the Artisans’ and Labourers’ Dwellings Act was passed, which allowed local public authorities to clear the slums and provided housing for the poor. A Public Health Act, which provided sanitation of water. A Factory Act, which limited the working hours in a week.
Gladstone was Prime Minister four times. In 1870 the Education Act was passed, and elementary education had became obligatory. Other reforms included the legalisation of trade unions in 1871, with the Trade Union Act, and the introduction of the secret ballot at elections in 1872, with the Ballot Act. The Third Reform Act of 1884 extended voting to all male householders.
The battle with France at the beginning of the 19th century had led to Britain’s global hegemony.
Many areas of the world were characterised by political and cultural fragmentation and Britain began to gain control without major political intervention. In particular, when Britain took over Transvaal in 1877, the Boers rebelled and war broke out. The Boer Wars ended in 1902 with a British victory.
In 1877 Queen Victoria became Empress of India, but the Empire was becoming more difficult to control. India was economically important for British trades, and strategically necessary to British control of Asia from the Persian Gulf to Shanghai. By 1850 the East India Company ruled most of northern, central and south-eastern India. In the late Victorian period the new imperial government became more ambitious and destroyed traditional farming and caused the deindustrialisation of India. At one time the main manufacturer of cotton cloth for the world now became the largest importer of England’s cotton. The Victorian Age came to an end with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
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