THE VICTORIAN AGE
When William IV died, he was succeeded by his young niece Queen Victoria (1837-1901), who reigned until her death. This was the longest reign in the history of England, destined to be a period of unprecedented material progress, imperial expansion and also one of political and costitutional developments. Britain came out of the Victorian era with a consolidated democracy and an efficient system of government, which proved to be invaluable during the crisis of the following century. The merits of these achievements partly belonged to Queen Victoria, who, in marked contrast with the other European monarchs, reigned costitutionally, this avoiding the storm of revolution which spread all over Europe in 1848.
First period (1837-48)
The first decade of the Victorian Age was a period of civil unrest, dominated by two important political tendencies: the liberal campaign for free trade (who wanted the tariffs on imports and wxports to be abolished) and the birth of Chartism, a more radical working-class movement, which sprang from popular discontent about the conditions of the workers and the Reform Act (1832), which had given the vote to so few.
Second period (1848-70)
This was a period of social reforms. The most important ones were:
– Factory acts (about the conditions of the workers);
– Ten hours’ act (established that people didn’t have to work more than 10 hours a day);
– Mines act (about children and women’s work conditions);
– Public health act;
– Ballot act (introduced the secret ballot);
– Education act (made the primary school compulsory);
– emancipation of all religion sects (tolerance of all religions);
– adoptation of the English week.
Third period (1870-1901)
This was a period of colonial expansion. Britain became a great empire; Queen Victoria became empiress of Indies.
Between 1880 and 1900 the Fabian Society, an association of middle-class intellectuals (f. i. George Bernard Shaw) had a great influence on the organisation of the “Labour Representation Conference” where trade unionists and socialists agreed to support the election of Labour members to Parliament.
Other features of the Victorian Age
—>The Victorian compromise: contrast between the richness and wealth of aristocracy and the misery of the poor people.
—> Victorian literature: the writers felt they had a moral and social responsability: they aimed at reflecting social changes and problems.
—>The Irish nationalism advocated the Home Rule (self-government); among the Irish nationalists, there was Charles J. Parnell.
—> The Victorian Age was the age of machinery: the process of industrialization provoked the discontent among the Labourers.