The Victorian Age
It was an age of Stability, social reforms and development, but it also was characterized by hypocrisy and wars. Dickens: the best time and the worst time
Queen Victoria ruled from 1837 to 1901, her husband was prince Albert of Saxe, which gave her 9 children (the royal family was a kind of model of respectability for the English society). Albert was a very important figure in the Victorian Age, as he acted like a substitute for the wife in certain occasions and also organized in 1851 the Crystal Palace Exposition and was her advisor, queen relied on him. During this reign, her power didn’t overrule on the Parliament’s one, at the time there were two political parties: the Liberals (ex whigs) and the Conservatives (ex Tories).
Events of the time
1832: 1st Reform Bill which extended the right to vote to middle class men
1833: The factory act, reduced the working hours for children
1834: Poor Law Amendment act: workhouses were built to face the poverty (Utilitarianism [criticized by Dickens], workhouses [introduced by parishes] were a result of the hypocrisy because there were strict rules, people had to work hard and their meals were poor [gruel, porridge], the poors were aware of this, so they had to avoid w.h. and improve their condition).
1838: People’s Charter (Result of the charter movement, which wanted the extension of the right to vote to all men, this led to the 2nd s.r. bill (urban workers) in 1867 and to the 3rd s.r.b. in 1884 (farmers and miners)
1845: Irish Potato Famine -> Repeal of the Corn Laws (taxes on corn, protectionism) by Peel in 1846
1851 Great Exhibition Crystal Palace, made to show the power of the England by prince Albert, products of all kind coming from all over the world were exhibited in it, the Crystal Palace was built within 5 months and it’s entirely made of iron and glass. It was a success also thanks to the railways development.
Wars and foreign policy
At this time, the English Empire was strongly extended all over the world, and had to defend its conquers and trading areas, it was said it was an empire in which “the sun never sets”.
1839-42: 1st opium war, against China to gain control of 5 ports, because China blocked importation of Opium by the East India Company.
1853-1856: Crimean War against Russia, because of its incredible expansion and to support Turkey
1856-1860: 2nd opium war, against China with France and Usa
1857: Indian Mutiny: Natives Indian rebelled against the racism and control of the English Empire on India (White man’s burden, England thought that they were sent from God to extend their lifestyle and power to other countries)
1876, Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India
1880-1881: 1st Boer War
1899-1901: 2nd Boer War, the Boers (Dutch farmers) established 2 republics in the north of south Africa and declared war to Britain, as that place was full of gold and diamond mines, but England won. In the 1901 began the end of the imperialism as there was the first example of self-governing state.
The Victorian Compromise
The Victorian Compromise was a way to hide all the social problems that afflicted the V.A. Because of the fact that middle and upper classes were rich and had power, they wanted to hide the problems instead of resolving them, introducing values like Hard Work, Charity and Respectability. The Hard Work was introduced because of the Utilitarian view of life, expanding in this period. The Charity was represented by the Workhouses (but it was Hypocrisy as they weren’t pleasant for poor people). The Respectability was represented by the introduction of a moral code, of a conformity to social standards and of the oblige of having good manners, the royal family could have been an example.
The idea behind the establishment of the workhouses was that the poor, aware of the of what would expect them in the workhouses,they should avoid to go there trying to improve their own conditions seen by the middle class as the result of their laziness and not of their exploitation (Gruel)
Bad conditions, igienic problems, increase of mortality rate, crimes and prostitution. Injustice and poverty coexisted with development and stability.
Limit of Utilitarianism: too much emphasis on reason (Dickens, society could grow with education, Art and social reforms)