The code of values of this age, which is usually defined as Victorian, found its basis in some of the movements of thought of the age.
The most influencer was a religious movement, knew as Evangelicalism; it was inspired by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and it promoted the following beliefs:
bring enthusiasm in the Church;
dedication to humanitarian causes and social reform;
obedience to a strict code of morality;
the importance of Bible reading and praying at home.
The other influencer movement was the Utilitarianism, based on the principles promoted by Jeremy Bentham; it contributed to the belief that any problem could be overcome through reason. But, on the other hand, its indifference to human and cultural values was completely attacked by a lot intellectuals of the time, as Dickens.
he believed that happiness was a state of the mind and the spirit;
he thought legislation should have a more positive function in trying to help men develop their skills;
the good society was to him a place where the free interplay of human characters creates the greatest variety;
he believed that progress came from mental energy and he thought that art and education were very important;
he promoted a long series of reforms, keeping in mind issues and causes as the popular education, the trades union organisation and the emancipation of the women.
In the middle phase of the Victorian Age, a feeling of uncertainty began to rise, since thanks to all the new scientific discoveries people started to understand that the universe wasn’t a static thing, but that it was changing.
With his works, as On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin presented his new theories on the issue of natural selection and evolution:
all living creatures have taken their shape after and through a slow process of change and adaptation;
some physical conditions are more suitable than others and that has determined the survival of certain species despite the other;
man evolved their skills and features, physical and intellectual, as any other animal.
Darwin’s theory also discarded the theory of the creation promoted by the Bible.
A philosopher who adapted Darwin’s theories to social life was Herbert Spencer: he said that economic competition was similar to natural selection. This became known as Social Darwinism.
The religious revival found its expression in the movement headed by the English cardinal John Henry Newman, and the movement took the name of Oxford Movement, since Newman came from that town.
Also in this period, had a significant role those who protested against the harm caused by environment in human life: one of those was Karl Marx, who explained his theories in his book Capital (1867).