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Updated: Oct 5, 2020


  • On 20th June 1837, the eighteen year old Princess Victoria became the Queen of England.

  • Queen Victoria became more popular and lived long enough to be affectionately called “grand-mamma”.

  • She was counselled and assisted first by her husband Prince Albert.

  • Later she was counselled by sagacious Prime Ministers like Robert Peel, Palmerston, Gladstone, and Disraeli.

  • It was her good fortune to preside over some of the epoch-making events in the history of mankind.

  • Her long reign of sixty-four years witnessed the introduction of the penny post, the telegraph, the telephone, and the extension of franchise to more and more sections of people.

  • All the three jubilees of her coronation were celebrated happily in all parts of the Empire.

  • She died at the ripe old age of eighty-three, on 22nd January 1901.


  • The early part of her rule was disturbed by the Chartist movement or Chartism.

  • Chartism was a movement for increasing the rights of the people.

  • The gulf of difference between the haves and have-nots was the root cause of this radical movement.


  • When the nation as a whole was wealthy the lot of the working class was miserable.

  • This situation was exploited by some of the well-intentioned but revolutionary men like Feargus O’ Connor.

  • He drew up a Charter called the People’s Charter.

  • It contained six demands:

  1. Universal suffrage,

  2. Voting by ballot,

  3. Annual parliaments,

  4. Payment of members,

  5. Abolition of property qualification for members of parliament, and

  6. Equal electoral districts.

  • This Charter presented to Parliament on 12th July 1839 (in the shape of a cylinder, 4 feet in diameter).

  • It was so shocking to Whigs and Tories that it was unanimously turned down.

  • This led to sporadic violence in many parts of the country.

  • Stern steps were taken by the Government.

  • The leaders were arrested and imprisoned or transported to distant places.

  • The movement was a failure (but in course of time most of its demands were conceded one after another).


  • In the first half of the 19th century, the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League and its activities troubled the administrators of England.

  • The Corn Law passed in 1815 caused much suffering to the working classes.

  • In order to eradicate the sufferings, the first Anti-Corn Law League was founded in 1839.

  • Richard Cobden, a son of a Sussex farmer was the leader.

  • With the public opinion meetings, within a few years there was a popular appeal for the repeal of the Corn Law.

  • The Prime Minister Robert Peel repealed the Corn Law in 1846 (prompted by humanitarian consideration because of failure of the potato crop in 1845).

  • Peel as a Tory expected to protect the interests of the agricultural landlords.

  • The Tories were terrified by the Act and in fury voted him out of power.

  • Peel fell never to rise again but secured a place in the heart of every common man.


  • The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a clear evidence of what years of peace and hard work could achieve.

  • It was conducted in the Crystal Palace (a huge iron structure covered by nine hundred thousand square feet of glass).

  • In one spot, people were able to see artistic works and raw materials gathered from every corner of the Empire and the world.

  • It was estimated that about six million people came to visit this exhibition.

  • This exhibition lasted for nine months.


  • Henry Bessemer’s process made possible the mass production of steel.

  • Michael Faraday’s discoveries of electrical power added much to the material prosperity.

  • The use of chloroform in medical practice by Simpson in 1847.

  • The anti-septic surgery developed by Joseph Lister came as great relief to the suffering humanity.

  • The very same science which is responsible for a lot of physical comfort was also the cause of long lasting spiritual discomfort.

  • In 1859 Charles Darwin (the great scientist of the day) published “The Origin of Species”.

  • It brought forth a theory that man and all other species of life had evolved from a common source.

  • It clashed with the Biblical account of the creation of man and led to a bitter battle of words between churchmen and scientists.


  • The Oxford movement otherwise known as the Tractarian Movement.

  • This Movement was inaugurated by John Henry Newman and a few other Oxford scholars in 1833.

  • Its main object was to counteract the latitudinarianism and irreligiousness of the intellectuals of the day.

  • Newman reading of history of the Church led to the conclusion that the Church of England, founded on the Thirty-nine Articles, was out of tune with the Church established as early as the sixth century.

  • According to him, the only remedy for the spiritual malady was a return to the practice of sacraments and rituals of the early Church.

  • He explained his ideas in a series of sermons and articles.

  • The response was immediate and encouraged.

  • Long forgotten medieval religious ceremonies were revived.

  • Attendance at Church service also considerably increased.

  • But Newman’s quest for the truth was received from the Roman Catholic Church on October 1845.

  • Those who failed to appreciate his sincerity described him as a deserter and betrayer.

  • By the unkind remarks of Charles Kingsley, he wrote his famous autobiography, “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”.

  • In that work he defended his conversion to the Catholic faith as a natural consequence of his conviction.

  • Newman’s conversion was followed by a regular stream of conversions to the Roman Catholic Church.

  • After repeated requests to Rome the long-suppressed Catholic hierarchy was re-established on St. Michael’s Day.

  • The head-quarters of the revived hierarchy was Westminster.


  • The Crimean War was a military conflict fought on the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French,and Ottoman Turkish.

  • This war fought from October 1853 to February 1856.

  • Russian lost to an alliance made up of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, Sardinia and France.

  • The Crimean War was followed by trouble in India.


  • The Crimean War came to an end with the Treaty of Paris in 1856.

  • It was an unhappy episode in the glorious Victorian Age.

  • Modern Nursing had its origin when Miss Florence Nightingale with a band of thirty-eight co-workers came to the rescue of the wounded soldiers in the hospital at Scutari.

  • She played a prominent part in reorganizing the Army Medical Department.

  • She brought a new dignity to the nurse’s profession (which was till then rather looked down upon by most people).

  • With the opening of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860, she became the founder of modern nursing.


  • In 1857 the Indian soldiers rose in rebellion at Meerut and also spread to Delhi.

  • Within the short span of time the rebellion was put down.

  • It served as an eye-opener to the British Government.

  • The East India Company was not competent to administer its vast territories in India.

  • The Government transferred political power completely from the Company to the Crown.

  • After 20 years, on 1st January 1877, Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India.

  • And a proclamation to that effect was read in great assembly at Delhi.


  • Poetry, prose, novel, history and painting, writing on painting – All these were produced in large quantities.

  • Alfred Tennyson was the greatest poet of the day.

  • He became the poet laureate in 1850.

  • His rival Robert Browning was famous for his dramatic monologue.

  • Other poets of the period were:

  1. Matthew Arnold

  2. Swinburne

  3. Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  4. Christina Rossetti

  5. Fitzgerald

  6. William Morris

  7. Arthur Clough and

  8. Coventry Patmore.

  • Other prose writers were:

  1. Thomas Carlyle

  2. Babington Macaulay

  3. John Ruskin

  4. Henry Newman etc…

  • The most outstanding literary contribution of the period was the novel.

  • As far as novel was concerned, it was an age of giants:

  1. Charles Dickens

  2. William Makepeace Thackaray

  3. George Eliot

  4. Anthony Trollope

  • Political Novelists:

  1. Benjamin Disraeli

  2. Wilkie Collins

  3. Charles Kingsley

  4. Charlotte Bronte

  5. Emily Bronte etc…

  • The two monumental works in history:

  1. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

  2. The History of England by Babington Macaulay.

  • The greatest painter of early Victorian age:

  1. William Turner – the master of water colour painting.

  2. George Cruikshank – Caricaturist.

  3. John Ruskin – Great critic of painting.

  4. In the mid-Victorian period there was a distinguished school of artists known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

  5. They wanted to revive the art forms which existed in European art before the time of Raphael.


  • The latter half of Queen Victoria’s reign was noted for many reforms in the field of both politics and education.

  • The Reform act of 1867 and 1884 extended the right of vote to larger and larger sections of society.

  • The educational reforms effected by Gladstone eradicated some of the anomalies.

  • Because of lack of co-operation Gladstone failed to solve Home rule for Ireland.

  • On the whole the Victorian age was a period of peace and prosperity.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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