THE VICTORIAN AGE
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.
EARLY PART OF THE RULE:
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:
Voting by ballot,
Payment of members,
Abolition of property qualification for members of parliament, and
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).
REPEAL OF THE CORN LAW:
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The Prime Minister Robert Peel repealed the Corn Law in 1846 (prompted by humanitarian consideration because of failure of the potato crop in 1845).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:
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.
PHYSICAL AND MEDICAL SCIENCE:
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:
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.
EMPRESS IN INDIA:
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.
GREAT OUTPUT OF LITERATURE:
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:
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Arthur Clough and
Other prose writers were:
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:
William Makepeace Thackaray
Emily Bronte etc…
The two monumental works in history:
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.
The History of England by Babington Macaulay.
The greatest painter of early Victorian age:
William Turner – the master of water colour painting.
George Cruikshank – Caricaturist.
John Ruskin – Great critic of painting.
In the mid-Victorian period there was a distinguished school of artists known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
They wanted to revive the art forms which existed in European art before the time of Raphael.
POLITICS and EDUCATION:
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