The early Victorian Age:
Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 when she was only 18. In 1840 she married the prince Alberto Gotha and they had 9 children. Her reign was very long (63 years, she reign before William IV) in fact we use the adjective Victorian to this age. This was an age of paradox and contradiction: discoveries, success and money vs. gap between poor and rich , people live like in 2 different countries. Enough there is an high sense of morality and respectability to preserve the image of family but the prostitution splint up. Under the reign of queen Victoria English became the leading nation in the world and the most powerful country: an empire (sun never set).
During this period Whigs had power and made a serious of reform to avoid the political revolution, so this an reformism age who change the social and political life specially of poor people(political reform about suffrage and social about work and health).
▪With the first reform act (1832) they gave the right to vote to the middle class (man) and the made other reform to improve the social and economic condition in the factory with the factory act (1833) and TEN hours’s act(1847) that imposed a workday of 10h.
▪the poor law amendment act (1834) established the built of workhouses where poor people were constrict to work in return of basic support to life (1 food and a bed), is a sort of social assistance from the state to the humble but really they have to work without pay and right like a sort of exploitation (they were a sort on interned ) and their life condition were bad (men and women were separated). This constructions were inspired by the puritan virtues of work hard and high sense of duty which would be rewarded: the poor was like a sinner and had to pay, so the work hard is a sort of punishment for their social state.
In this years there was an explosion of the knowledge. Ordinary people wanted more and more notices(information), in fact they red a lot of book and newspaper which increased its production.
In 1846 there was the “corn law” movement, idealized by the Prime minister Robert Peel that was forced to free the price of corn in 1846 because of the Irish potato famine.
These were the golden years where the agricultural developed of England became the better of his story.
The worker classes made some political and economic movement.
The chartist movement (1838-48) so called for the People’s charter, a document composed by 6 point and demands: 1)Universal male suffrage ; 2)Equal electoral distract; 3)Abolition of property qualification; 4)Payment of MPS; 5)Secret ballot and 6) Annual election. This movement failed because the absence of violence that could impose him and also for the absence of democracy in Britain.
▪The second reform act (1867) gave the vote to skilled working men.
English people in this years had a better life after the “Hungry Forties” (gli anni quaranta della fame) and in London started to build the Underground in 1854. The means of transport became better and also the system of communication. Britain became an Empire and conquered a lot of colonies, the most important was India. The GREAT EXHIBITION in 1851 show the evidence of British power.
Britain wanted the free trade because it benefited her as a major manufacturer. It support some liberal causes like Italian independence from the Austrians. She forced China to open to British commerce by insisting on the opium trade. Britain fight also the Crimean War and the hero of this war was Florence Nightingale , the “lady with the lamp”, who went in Crimea as volunteered as nurse .
The last years of queen’s Victoria reign:
Prince Albert died in 1861. The last years of queen’s Victoria Reign started with the re-organization of the political parties: the LIBERAL (ex Whigs) and the Conservative (ex Tories) represented the two political parts in which England population were divided. They won together the elections under their leaders William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, and they supported to solve some English problem as urban health, the rights of trade unions and state education. England had relationship with the old Ottoman Empire and Austrian and the new nation of Italy and Germany. This relationship brought in England movement of nationalist that affect Ireland. In fact in the 19th century, in Ireland there was a revolt for a self-government (called Home Rule) but the Parliament didn’t accept this form of government for Ireland (that was accepted only after the World War I).
In foreign politic, England and other Country divide up the African continent, extending her Empire (by explorers like Livingstone and Rhodes). In 1877 Queen Victoria obtained the title of “Empress of India” and people said that on England and her Empire, “The Sun Never Set”- However the biggest empire became more difficult to control. In fact English people had a growing sense of the “white man’s Burden”, in fact British felt a responsibility to spread their superior way of life to uncivilized, but at the same time they were perplexed and concerned that this was unwelcome.
▪In 1884 the third reform act granted the right to vote to all male householders and with the secret ballot and Payment of MP the corruption stopped and opened the career in politic to the less privileged men.
▪In 1871 with the TRADE UNION ACT government legalized the Trade Union and this association fought to guarantee to their members their rights. Gradually in this time Socialism developed and it expand himself in Fabian Society, and later a part of Liberal Socialist party became the Independent Labour Party (1906).
In this period there was the Suffragette Movement because some men believed that also girl had right to vote. But this movement was stopped for its violence.
Victorian towns was one of the first example of urban society, had gas lighting and rubbish collection and many public building such as railway station, libraries and museum, boarding school and hospital and even the agriculture began to be mechanized.
▪In 1875 was emanated the public health act a sort of a primitive welfare state.
It was a period of private retail boom. Britain was considered the “workshop of the world” in fact new materials were being developed such as rubber, aluminium, petroleum and celluloid.
Reading became a national leisure pursuit. With such a large and varied readership different genres flourished from poetry to detective novels, from music hall songs to political tracts.
The Victorians had an high sense of morality probably this was influenced by Puritan Moral and sense of duty. Probably a Changing Society reflected itself in the necessity of work hard and people insisted on the sense of duty rather than personal inclinations. People could learned this new ideas in Elementary school and Sunday School were they learned the sense of punctuality and application. Diligence, good-manners were recompensed, usually by the gifts of books. This values were applied to all strata of society and they were the same for all. The idea of respectability distinguished the middle form the lower classes. This idea was a mix between morality and hypocrisy, severity and conformity to social standards, that included good manners, ownership of a comfortable house, regular attendance at church and charitable activity.
In this period Philanthropy movement was very diffused. Philanthropy means “a feeling of love to the human beings” and this phenomenon were more diffused in England and it was addressed to every kind of poverty ( “stray children, fallen woman and drunk men”).
Victorian Family was patriarchal and the position of the husband was dominant. Children and woman could obey this authority. But also women had an important role, in fact they provided to the education of their children.
Sexuality was extremely repressed in private and public life, there was an high sense of purity.
At the end of19th century the patriotism became expression of civic pride and national fervour. Patriotism was influenced by the idea of racial superiority. In fact British believed that their race was supreme race in the divine hierarchy. For them, God imposed to their race to distributed in the world their instruction, their law, they police and institution. They had the role to make all population similar to Britain and to civilize them. This movement was called “jingoism”.
The Victorian Frame of Mind:
The code of values of Victorian Age founded his bases in some movements of thought: the religion movement of Evangelism inspired by John Wesley (the creator of Methodism) believed in:
Dedication to humanitarian causes and social reform, obedience to a strict code of morality, the importance of a Bible reading at home.
Utilitarianism, inspired by John Bentham, contributed to the Victorian conviction that any problem could be overcome through reason. According to utilitarianism, an action is morally right if it has consequences that lead to happiness. Utilitarianism was attacked by many intellectuals like Charles Dickens and John Stuart Mill ,that founded the principles of Benthamite philosophy: he believed that happiness is a state of the mind and the spirit, he thought legislation should have a more positive function to help men develop his skills, he believed that progress come from mental energy and he promoted a series of reforms (education ,trade unions, development of co-operatives, the extension to representation to all citizens and emancipation of women).
Charles Darwin, in his work “On the origin of species”, presented his theory of natural selection and evolution. For him only the species more able than other could survive and they adapted their existence to the physical conditions to survive. Man evolved like any other animal from less highly organised forms, namely from an ape-like mammal. Darwin’s theory was against the creation of Good tolled in the Bible and showed the law of the strongest. The philosopher Hebert Spencer applied Darwin’s ideas to the social life founded the “Social Darwinism” that said: the social life was around the economic competition and it was the same of the natural selection in which the poor and the oppressed didn’t deserve compassion.
People manifested their spread to industrial society. Marx wrote the Capital and affirmed that England was the most advanced European Industrial nation. His work influenced writers like Morris and Arnold.
*Utilitarianism: is a philosophical theory based on the Greek philosophy Epicurism. According to utilitarianism an action is morally right if it produced happiness otherwise it is a bad action if it lead to some problems, also institution should useful and should guarantee the material happiness of much part of people , so we have to test them in the light of reason and common sense to determinate that.
Following Bentham , John Stuart Mill published his short works Utilitarianism and his essay On subjection Women (1864) where he said:
- sexist theory is an empty doctrine;
-there is no experience on how society would had been on a different sex base;
-nobody knows the real nature of two sexes which is the artificial result of forced repression.