The Victorian Era

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The Victorian Era

  1. 1. The Victorian Era Part I – Overview of an Era
  2. 2. "We are of the time of chivalry....We are of the age of steam." - William Makepeace Thackery
  3. 3. An “Age of Transition” The Quest for Self-Definition
  4. 4. Never since the beginning of Time was there, that we hear or read of, so intensely self-conscious a Society. Our whole relations to the Universe and to our fellow-man have become an Inquiry, a Doubt. — Thomas Carlyle, 1831        
  5. 5. Rule Britannia? <ul><li>Between 1800 & 1850: </li></ul><ul><li>population doubled from nine to eighteen million </li></ul><ul><li>Britain became the richest country on earth </li></ul><ul><ul><li>first urban, industrial society in history </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By 1890: </li></ul><ul><li>1 in 4 people on the earth were under British rule </li></ul>
  6. 6. General Characteristics: <ul><li>The Victorian Era was marked by: </li></ul><ul><li>Momentous and intimidating social changes </li></ul><ul><li>Mind-blowing inventions </li></ul><ul><li>extraordinary energies </li></ul>
  7. 7. Industrialization <ul><li>Land owning aristocracy lost power </li></ul><ul><li>The insecure, “ever expanding” urban middle class gained power </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Businessmen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Professionals </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Millions of rural workers forced into poverty </li></ul>
  8. 8. Best of Times/Worst of Times… <ul><li>the rapidity of events produced: </li></ul><ul><li>wild prosperity vs. unthinkable poverty </li></ul><ul><li>humane reforms vs. flagrant exploitation </li></ul><ul><li>immense ambitions vs. devastating doubts </li></ul><ul><li>An age of great achievement, deep faith, indisputable progress AND destruction, religious collapse, vicious profiteering </li></ul>
  9. 9. Reform and Revolutionary Fears <ul><li>Every social sector fought for privileges and feared the unchecked rights of the others : </li></ul><ul><li>Campaigns to extend voting rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Men </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Middle class </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Working class </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brought on fears of an armed insurrection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feared class warfare </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Arguments for and against trade unions </li></ul><ul><li>Women’s equality </li></ul><ul><li>Socialism </li></ul><ul><li>Separation of church and state </li></ul>
  10. 10. “ Multitudinousness&quot; <ul><li>The complexity of British culture: </li></ul><ul><li>Thwarted all attempts to define a collective identity or a clear sense of purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Victorians suffered from both “future shock” and information overload: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>steam-powered printing presses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Railways & Telegraphs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Journalism and junk mail </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Self-Consciously Modern: <ul><li>people were sure only of their differences from previous generations </li></ul><ul><li>traditional ways of life transforming: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Life was now perilously unstable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The world was now astonishingly new </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. We Are Not Amused… Victoria and the Victorians
  13. 13. &quot;Few of us, perhaps, have realized till now how large a part she had in the life of everyone of us; how the thread of her life [bound] the warp of the nation's progress.&quot; - A newspaper quote on the Death of the Queen in 1901
  14. 14. “… the head of our morality” <ul><li>During the tumultuous time, The Queen ultimately came to represent: </li></ul><ul><li>England & Empire </li></ul><ul><li>Stability & Continuity </li></ul><ul><li>Duty, Family, & Propriety </li></ul><ul><li>A stern, conservative, durable symbol of her dynamic, aggressively businesslike realm. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Royal Representations <ul><li>1830’s - A “Decade of New Beginnings” </li></ul><ul><li>1837: Victoria is shown as a fairytale, teenaged queen </li></ul><ul><li>Radiated youthful enthusiasm to match the decade’s early years </li></ul>
  16. 16. Royal Representations <ul><li>1850’s – “The Matron-Monarch” </li></ul><ul><li>Now married to Prince Albert (sans the can)* </li></ul><ul><li>Settled into a stable, productive domestic image (she gave birth to 9 children!) </li></ul><ul><li>Matched the productivity boom of 1850’s industry </li></ul>* As in the famous prank-call joke of the 1950’s-60’s
  17. 17. Royal Representations <ul><li>1870’s - “The Widow of Windsor” </li></ul><ul><li>Reclusive after Albert’s early death in 1861 </li></ul><ul><li>Projected a world-weary gloominess </li></ul><ul><li>Her aging was reflected in Britain’s own sense of maturation as an Imperial world power </li></ul>
  18. 18. An Exception to Her own Rule: <ul><li>Victoria herself was study in contradiction; a publicly projected image that held a privately unfulfilled ideal : </li></ul><ul><li>World’s most powerful woman, but did not support the “mad, wicked folly of Women’s Rights”. </li></ul><ul><li>Her face was known around the world, but she lived in constant seclusion </li></ul><ul><li>Held as an icon of motherhood, but hated pregnancy, childbirth and babies </li></ul>
  19. 19. What is a Victorian? <ul><li>The adjective &quot;Victorian&quot; was first used in 1851 to celebrate the nation's mounting pride in its institutions and commercial success. </li></ul><ul><li>This historical/literary period is defined by the duration of a monarch’s rule, rather than any one unifying idea as was the case with the Romantics. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Victorian Behavior <ul><li>Stereotypically, “Victorian” social conduct is governed by: </li></ul><ul><li>Strict rules </li></ul><ul><li>Formal manners </li></ul><ul><li>Rigidly defined gender roles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Relations hampered by sexual prudery </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intense obsession with a public appearance of propriety ( private facts were often the compete opposite!) </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Contradictory Behaviors <ul><li>Perceived Image: </li></ul><ul><li>Energetic </li></ul><ul><li>Phenomenal work ethic </li></ul><ul><li>Sense of duty towards the “Public Good” </li></ul><ul><li>Self-confident </li></ul><ul><li>A Society of “over-achievers” </li></ul>
  22. 22. Contradictory Behaviors <ul><li>Their contemporary literature hints that: </li></ul><ul><li>Work obsession = deliberate distraction </li></ul><ul><li>Public responsibility = an excuse to ease doubts: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Religious faith </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gender roles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Class privilege and Imperial rule </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conservatism = FEAR OF CHANGE </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dominate the moment to keep the future (which was uncertain) at bay </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Great discoveries = unexpected, often distressing repercussions </li></ul></ul>

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