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The Victorian Era and the British Empire
What happened during the Victorian era?
The Victorian era is the period of the reign of Queen Victoria, from June 20, 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901.
The era followed the Georgian period (1714 to 1837, named after the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV) and was characterized by a class society that included the upper, middle and lower classes.
It was a period of old-fashioned ideals, known for its corsets, hats, top hats, petticoats and petticoats and the entrepreneurial spirit of the self-made man.
Charles Dickens became famous as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era and Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), a British nurse, known as “The Lady with the Lamp”, whose experiences during the Crimean War laid the foundations of modern nursing.
Coronation of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria’s father died when she was only 8 months old, and her three uncles also died, putting her in line for the throne when she was 18.
Her coronation took place on Thursday 28 June 1838, just over a year after she succeeded to the throne with Lord Melbourne, her first Prime Minister, who trained her in the art of politics.
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her first cousin, became Queen Victoria’s husband from their marriage on 10 February 1840 until his death in 1861.
Their children married into royal and noble families, earning Victoria the nickname, “Grandmother of Europe” and spreading hemophilia among European royalty.
Prince Albert died of typhoid fever on December 14, 1861 at Windsor Castle with Queen Victoria and five of his children at his bedside.
Belle Époque (1871 – 1914)
The Belle Époque (La Belle Époque, “The Beautiful Epoch”) between the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 saw a flourishing of French art, with numerous masterpieces of literature, music, theater and the visual arts flourishing.
In Britain and the rest of Europe it was characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, colonial expansion and technological, scientific and cultural innovation.
The dramatic forces of change unleashed by the Industrial Revolution made the British Empire the first global industrial power, producing much of the world’s coal, iron, steel and textiles during the Victorian era.
The First Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1840) in Great Britain led to the disappearance of rural life as cities expanded rapidly and a factory system was established, centered on the production of textiles.
Three of the most influential inventions of this period were the coke oven, the steam engine and the spinning jenny which increased production possibilities.
The Second Industrial Revolution (1850 – 1914) focused on the production of cost-effective steel, the expansion of railroads, advances in electricity, improved communications, oil, and automobiles.
Alexander Graham Bell (3 March 1847 – 2 August 1922), a Scottish-born inventor, scientist and engineer, invented and patented the telephone in 1876, while Samuel Finley Breese Morse (27 April 1791 – 2 April 1872), American inventor and painter, invented the electric telegraph (1832-35) and then developed Morse code (1838).
Child Labor During the Victorian Era.
Child labor during the Industrial Revolution became notorious for the conditions under which children were employed, depriving them of their childhood, the opportunity to attend school, and was psychologically, physically, socially and morally harmful.
Children made up more than 25 percent of Britain’s workforce in mines, factories and workshops.
Many started working at the age of four or five, working long hours in dangerous working conditions.
In coal mines, children would crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults, and there were young boys who worked as chimney sweeps in rich houses to remove soot.
The famous writer, Charles Dickens, worked at the age of 12 in a black factory, with his family in debtor’s prison.
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (28 April 1801 – 1 October 1885) was a British politician, philanthropist and social reformer who became known as “The Poor Man’s Earl” for his advocacy of better treatment for the working class.
He was also the president of the Ragged School Union, which promoted education for the poorest children in society.
Lord Shaftesbury believed that education was the way to free children from poverty.
The Factory Acts he supported provided improved conditions for children and women which included:
*maximum working day 12 hours.
*children under the age of 9 are prohibited from working.
*children aged 9 to 13 will be limited to a 48-hour work week, with half-time work.
At just 4-foot-11 inches, Victoria was a towering symbol of the British Empire.
Her reign paved the way for a modern and prosperous Great Britain.
From the mid-18th century, the Royal Navy was the most powerful in the world and played a key role in establishing the British Empire.
Victories over Napoleonic France increased Britain’s influence abroad when Lord Nelson’s fleet defeated the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in Belgium in 1815.
Queen Victoria became Empress of India on the advice of her seventh Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.
She approved of his imperialist policies that led to the scramble for Africa in the 1880s and 1890s with other major European powers.
Britain became the most powerful nation in the world with one quarter of the world’s population owing allegiance to the Queen.
William Ewart Gladstone (29 December 1809 – 19 May 1898) was a Liberal politician who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain for 12 years in four terms starting from 1868 to 1894.
His political doctrine, known as Gladstone liberalism, was to reduce privilege and open established institutions to all, such as universities and the military.
Political parties during the Victorian era
The two main political parties during the Victorian era were the Whigs/Liberals and the Conservatives.
The Whigs were a major British political group from the late 17th to early 19th century who wanted limited royal authority and increased parliamentary power.
The Labor Party was founded in 1900, growing out of the trade union movement and socialist parties of the 19th century that overtook the Liberal Party, to become the main opposition to the Conservative Party in the early 1920s.
Prominent statesmen during the Victorian era included Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone and Lord Salisbury.
Lord Melbourne (Whig), who was the British Prime Minister from July 16 to November 14, 1834 and from April 18, 1835 to August 30, 1841, was a close friend of Queen Victoria and the main political adviser during the first years of her reign (from June 20, 1837).
The Crimean War
The Crimean War (1853-6) was a major European military conflict in the 19th century that saw the alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia against Imperial Russia.
The immediate cause was disputes over the Orthodox shrines in Jerusalem and the rights of the Orthodox, Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which were under the occupation of the Ottoman Empire.
French Emperor Napoleon III (Catholic) refused.
Having received promises of support from France and Britain, the Turkish Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia in October 1853.
Attack of the light brigade
The Light Brigade attack that took place during the Battle of Balaklava, on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War, was a force of British light cavalry with fast horses and soldiers armed with lances and sabres.
With misinterpreted orders, the light brigade of 670 horsemen launched a headlong charge against the heavily defended Russian troops.
The legend was made famous by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his 1855 poem honoring their bravery and sacrifice: “Honor the charge they made! Honor the Light Brigade, The noble six hundred!”
Florence Nightingale, (1820 – 1910) was a British nurse and the founder of modern nursing.
She became famous for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War (1854-56) and became an icon of the Victorian era as the “Lady with the Lamp” who visited wounded and dying soldiers daily.
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