The Victorian Age (from 1837 to 1901)
The Victorian Age started in 1837 and finished in 1901; the term Victorian comes from Queen Victoria and her reign was the longest in the history of England. She became the symbol of the Nation. It was an era full of political and social reforms, for example:
- The Parliamentary Act extended the right to vote to the middle class and to the working class in towns. Later it was extended to the working class in the Rural Districts.
- Factory and Mines Act forbade children under 9 to work. Then it forbade women and children to work underground. It reduced the working hours to 10 and gave meal breaks to everyone.
As regards the political scene, the Whig Party became the Liberal Party, on the contrary the Tory Party became the Conservative Party. There were two leading political figures: the two Prime Ministers William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. They were rivals in politics but they both passed an important Social Reform: the Primary Education Act, which regarded the compulsory Primary Education.
In the period of Victorian Age there was the peak of the Industrial Revolution. It brought the doctrine of free trade; it made London the world centre of industry, finance, shipping, banking and insurance. Daily life became easier for rich people because they could have better quality of food, of clothing and of furniture. Victorians loved progress and they were very proud of their Nation. Even Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, was really proud of his Nation. In fact, to show the world the power of his Nation, he wanted the construction of a metal, glass, iron structure in Huge Park. The name of the structure was (and still is) “Cristal Palace”, and it was the place for the “Great Exhibition”. Everyone from every country in the world could assist the wonderful British Exhibition dated 1851.
The industrial revolution brought together with progress also a lot of social problems in the industrialised and coal-mine towns. Living conditions of workers and their families were terrible, because they were forced to live in overcrowded houses called “slum dwellings” and people were called “slum dwellers”. All the area was called “slum”. Working conditions were horrible because men, women and children had to work for long hours without any rest (before the social reforms). Factories were dirty and filthy and for that, a lot of children died. There had always been exploitation of children and overcrowding but this time something changed about people attention. This phenomenon was so widespread that the consciousness of it was unavoidable. The Victorians were conscious of the Evil of industrialisation, but they were necessary and temporary conditions so people had to accept this for the future wealth of the country. It was called “Victorian Compromise” and it describes the double concept of the Victorian Age.
The Utilitarian philosophy spread all over the country and the pioneer was the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The utilitarian philosophers thought that everything could be solved through the use of reason. For that, they had a materialist and a naturalistic view of man and life. Moreover, everything had to be judged according standards of utility and usefulness and how much this utility provided happiness for the largest number of people. In a typical Victorian school there was a type of Education based of facts, numbers, calendars, lot of things to learn byheart and to copy practical experience without any emotional space, any ideas or personal opinions. The methods of punishment were a lot and very hard for children. One of them was caning. The ragged schools were for poor children. The Victorian writers called this philosophy “The Monster” and they tried to attack it through their works. One of there was Charles Dickens who condemned this philosophy and made the readers aware of the dangers of it, providing them the tools to broaden heir minds against the narrowness of this theory and this kind of Education.