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The Victorian Period 1832-1901. (Lit Book pg. 783). Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Became queen at age 18 after the death of her uncle William IV Reigned from 1837-1901 (longest reigning British monarch) Married first cousin Albert, had 9 children, 42 grandchildren (“the Grandmother of Europe”)

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queen victoria 1819 1901
Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
  • Became queen at age 18 after the death of her uncle William IV
  • Reigned from 1837-1901 (longest reigning British monarch)
  • Married first cousin Albert, had 9 children, 42 grandchildren (“the Grandmother of Europe”)
  • Had few actual powers (Britain was now a constitutional monarchy)
  • A national icon, identified with strict standards of personal morality.




I. Relative Peace and Economic Growth

  • The Industrial Revolution caused the middle class to grow
    • increasesin production, towns, wealth, jobs, goods; andexpansion in middle class’ social and political influence.

II. The Idea of Progress

  • Thomas Macaulay and the Victorian middle class defined progress as material improvement (counted and measured)
    • paved/lit streets, clean city, sober police force, numbered houses, literate citizens.

III. The “Hungry Forties”

  • Queen Victoria's first decade of rule called the “Hungry Forties” because it was a period of economic depression (1.5 millionunemployed!).
  • The working conditions for children in the 1840s were terrible: 12 hour days, 6 day weeks, dangerous/mangling machines, coal mines.
  • London was an unpleasant city during the 1840s. There was mass amounts of growth/overpopulation: unpaved streets, pollution, the Thames full of industrial waste, sewage, run-off from graveyards (ewww).
  • Ireland in the 1840s was suffering from the potato famine: a million deaths, two million immigrations (to England, U.S., others).

IV. The Movement for Reform

  • Some negative effects of Industrialization including rallies/riots, high prices (controlled by government), pollution, overpopulation of cities, etc.
  • Some positive results of industrialization meant better material condition of social classes:
    • drop in food prices
    • improved diet
    • factories and railroads = cheap postage, newspapers, furniture, clothing, travel
  • All men were allowed to vote in 1867.
  • Allwomen (over 30) were allowed to vote 1918.
  • Everyoneover 21 in 1928.
  • Children'slives were also improved by reforms: work day limited to 10 (!) hours (with a half day on Saturday); education improved (made mandatory, then free).

V. Decorum and Authority

  • The Victorian middle class's focus concerning behavior and morals:
    • some ideas (sex, death, birth) glossed over, not spoken about
    • powerful ideas about authority
    • obsession with gentility and decorum
  • The realities of the lives of middle class women were still pretty bad:
    • subject to male authority
    • expected to marry/run the home
    • unmarried working-class women could become servants, middle class unmarried women could be governesses or teachers
    • many left unmarried when men delayed marriage for financial success

VI. Intellectual Progress

  • Advances were made in the sciences, including beginning to understand the earth/its living creatures:
    • Geology : rocks and fossils
    • Biology: theory of evolution (Darwin)
  • Industrial England depended on and supported science and technology (such as chemistry and engineering).

VII. Questions and Doubts

  • Victorian writers expressed doubts:
    • Does material comfort fully satisfy human needs and wishes?
    • Are we rightly perceiving the universe?
    • They also questioned the idea of exploiting the earthand mocked codes of decorum/authority
  • Charles Dickens portrayed the lives of decent people with happy endings, things usually working out. However, decent people often neglected, abused, and/or exploited.
  • Dickens attacked the hollowness, glitter, superficiality, and excesses of the Victorians' lives.

XII. Victorian Drama

  • Oscar Wilde and George Bernhard Shaw were influenced by a world-turned-on-its-head view of life, irreverent ridicule.
  • Drama was moving towards realism during this time.
  • Changes were occurring in the theater:
    • smaller, more modern theaters
    • apron removed
    • gaslight (then electricity)
  • These changes allowed for smaller, more realistic dramas (audience views action through “fourth wall,” illusion of reality).