In 1837 queen Victoria came to the throne during a difficult situation. After 1832, the first Reform Bill eliminated rotten boroughs, but workers lived in bad conditions, so in 1834 with Poor Law, poor people were amassed in workhouses, like jails, where they worked in change of food and shelter.
Workers’ movement was organized like Chartist (1838), so called because they asked for a charter of social reforms: they wanted members of parliament were paid, because they weren’t paid so only rich people could be member of parliament; and they wanted extension of the right to vote to the working classes. The protectionism was abolished and free trade was adopted (1846), because they can win the competition with other country, this is one of the reason why in England there’re not revolution, because it was a rich country, with many opportunities. Railway system (1848) and Steamboat service (1849) developed quickly, they linked Britain with America and the rest of the world. Scientific research was applied to the invention and construction of new machines: in 1851 there was in England a great exhibition of all innovations, of the progress.
There was established reforms as:
• 1862 Mines Act, forbidding employment of women and children in mines.
• 1867 Second reform Bill (Extended the right to vote to town workers, but it excluded miners and agricultural workers)
• 1871 Emancipation of religious sects
• 1875 Trade union were recognized and legalized
• 1884 Third reform Bill (Extended the right to vote to all male workers)
And social reforms:
• 1832 Reform act (Reform Bill) which eliminated rotten boroughs
• 1833 Factory act, forbidding employment of children under nine
• 1834 Poor Law amendment act
• 1847 Ten hours act, which established ten hours for all workers
New political parties were:
• Conservatives (old tories) with prime ministers such as Robert Peel and Disraeli.
• Liberals (old wighs) with prime ministers such as Palmerston and Gladstone.
Labour Party was founded (1900), it had taken over from the liberals as the political alternative to the conservatives. During Victoria’s reign in Ireland there was potato blight (plants of potato wither), this brought to famines so people emigrate to the United States. Besides a movement for Irish independence led by Charles S. Parnell, asked for Home Rule (self-government) for Ireland.
When Britain’s European policy was led by Palmerston, he was convinced that Britain interests was different from the Austria and Russia’s one, that were protectionist. So when there was Crimean War between Turkey and Russia, France and Britain helped Turkey, so Russia was defeated. Florence Nighingale went to Crimea to organize hospitals, she founded the Red Cross.
Married Women’s Property Acts gave women the right to have still their property after the marriage. British empire extended, was rich, and there was a surplus of population, in fact many people went to Canada, British colony. While Australia and New Zealand were used for cattle and sheep raising. Besides, other British colonies were in India and in Africa, where they defeat Boers.
Population and economy of the United States grew quickly, because millions of immigrants coming from Europe, to acquire new territories (The Frontier). People from all the continent and from Europe rushed to California, this was called Gold Rush.
New economy was various, in North there was slavery, industries, in South there was an agricultural economy and it opposed to slavery, so because of differences between North and South, and because of the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, enemy of slavery. So there was a civil war, won the North and slavery was abolished.
In this period there is a strong influence of the utilitarianism, which claims everything must be judged depending on utility’s standards, like says philosopher Bentham, who promotes material happiness. It’s against the morality, for example if is useful exploit people to be rich, so this led to exploitation and competition. “Victorian” is an hypocritical and negative term, it suggests the idea of “prudery”, it means hypocrisy between morality and reality. Victorian establishment refused to admit this materialistic way of life under the term “respectability”, this is the “Victorian compromise”. (Respectability) Upper and middle classes couldn’t tolerate the word “leg”, so women’s and tables’ legs were covered, this was the morality, but in reality they pushed women into prostitution to maintain poor families. The effect on working classes brought by industrialization was hard, and thinkers as Carlyle, Mill, Ruskin, were concerned for the country. So the communism of Marx and Engels had influence on socialists, especially on Fabian society, which believed in gradual reforms rather than violent revolution. (Fabian society take its name from Quintus Fabius Maximus, the roman general called cunctator, who delays war).
In this period Darwin’s theory of evolution was affirmed, bringing problems to religion, because scientists challenged the Christian belief in the creation of man by God.
We can divide art and literature in two phases:
• The Victorian compromise: In this phase poets (Dickens, Bronte sisters, Tennyson, Browning) criticizes society but they still identify with it.
• The anti-Victorian reaction: In this phase poets (Stevenson, Hardy, Conrad, Wilde) are completely isolated from society.
The most important artistic and literary movements were:
• Realism and Naturalism: In this phase there are detailed description of life, the life isn’t idealized.
• Aestheticism: (French influence) In this phase the artist has no moral obligation, no external justification.
The most important tendencies:
• Free trade: Abolition of tariffs on imports and exports, repeal of corn laws. The contrary is protectionism, that means the intervening of the state in commercial business.
• Chartism: The origin was the social discontent for the hard condition of workers and right to vote, so they asked: Adult male suffrage
Equal electoral districts
Right for men without property to be a M.P. (Member of Parliament)
Annual general election
Payment of member of Parliament
Secret ballot (ballottaggio)
All the demands were rejected and the Chartism failed, but this increased the consciousness of the workers’ rights.
• 1839 to 1842 Opium war, to protect trade routes against other nations. Britain gains access to five Chinese ports and Hong Kong.
• 1850 Threat of Russian expansion bring to Crimean war between Turkey and Russia, where Russia lost.
• 1857 (Indian crisis) native soldiers threatened British rule.
• 1882 Egyptian nationalism brought down the british ruler. Britain invaded Egypt.
• 1884 Invasion of Sudan
• 1899 to 1902 Boer against Britain: Britain are against Dutch settlers and the Boers.