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The Victorian Period


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Key attributes of the time

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The Victorian Period

  1. 1. The Victorian Period 1830-1901
  2. 2. “British History is 2,000 years old, and yet in a good many ways the world has moved farther ahead since the Queen was born that it moved in all the rest of the 2,000 put together.” –Mark Twain in London for the Diamond Jubilee celebrating 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s coming to the throne
  3. 3. London Center of influence by second half of 19th century Rapid growth from 2 to 6.5 million inhabitants during Queen’s reign Growth due to shift to modern economy based on trade and manufacturing Some of the developments besides steam engine: railways, printing presses, telegraph, photography, anesthetics, and universal compulsory education Could be considered a 2nd Renaissance
  4. 4. England Market share all over globe Export of cotton and manufactured goods by fleet of ships unparalleled by any other country World’s workshop and world’s banker By 1890, a quarter of all territory on earth part of British empire; 1 out of 4 people were subjects of Queen Reactions to this rapid expansion ranged from celebratory to lamenting the abandonment of traditional rhythms of life and relationship
  5. 5. Victorian Temperament Connoted “prudish”, “repressed”, “old fashioned” Some key characteristics: earnestness, moral responsibility, domestic propriety, self-conscious of historical context Embodied in the Queen Belief that people can find solutions to problems and create new ways to better themselves and their environment; strong sense of social responsibility
  6. 6. Early Period (1830-48): A Time of Troubles 1830 Reform Parliament created more fair distribution of parliamentary representation; middle-age interests gained power Reform Bill of 1832 gave middle class men right to vote Reform Bill of 1867 gave working class men the vote However, issues of unemployment, desperate poverty, rioting, terrible working and living conditions, child laborers were rife
  7. 7. “There is an immense and continually increasing population, no adequate demand for labor…no confidence, but a universal alarm, disquietude, and discontent. Nobody can sell anything….Certainly I have never seen…so serious a state of things at that which now stares us in the face”—Charles Greville, statesman in his diary in 1842 One solution, in 1838, “People’s Charter”, to extend voting rights to workers organized by a group of workers called “Chartarists” 1846 Repeal of Corn Laws, tariffs on imported flour, thus lowering price of flour and bread laying way for free trade
  8. 8. Mid-Victorian Period (1848- 70): The Age of Improvement Economic prosperity Growth of Empire Religious Controversy
  9. 9. Economic Prosperity Monarchs models of middle-class domesticity and devotion to duty Free trade was making aristocrats rich Agriculture flourished along with trade and industry Child labor restricted, limited time allowed for work, general improvements in working conditions for working class “It is a privilege to live in this age of rapid and brilliant events. What an error to consider it a utilitarian age. It is one of infinite romance.”—PM Benjamin Disraeli
  10. 10. Growth of Empire Tripling of goods, people, and capital abroad between 1850-1870, resulting in creation of British Empire 1850s-60s, large scale immigration to Australia 1857 Parliament begin to govern India and 1876, Queen was named empress of India Britain built railways, strung telegraph wires, created framework for education and government, influences still felt today
  11. 11. White Man’s Burden The moral responsibility to “protect the poor natives and advance civilization”—Queen Victoria Missionaries spread Christianity in India, Asia, and Africa
  12. 12. Religious Controversy Increase debate about religious belief Church of England had 3 major divisions: Evangelical (Low Church); Broad Church; High Church Evangelicals emphasized spiritual transformation of individual by conversion and strictly moral life; associated with non-Conformists (Baptists, Methodists, etc.) High Church emphasized importance of tradition, ritual, and authority; associated with Catholic church Broad Church resisted controversies that separated the other two, emphasizing broadly inclusive nature of Church and modern advances in thought
  13. 13. Rationalism Utilitarianism or Benthanism or Philosophical Radicalism Named after ideas of Jeremy Bentham who believed all humans sought to maximize pleasure and minimize pain Therefore, the criterion by which we should judge a morally correct action is the extent to which it gives the most pleasure to the most people. Religion did not meet the rationalist test of value and was considered an outmoded superstition by Benthanists
  14. 14. Scientific Advancement Scientific attitude applied toward study of Bible, seen as a mere text of history with evidence about its compositions, rather than sacredly infallible text Discoveries of geology and astronomy, which put the age of the earth much older than the literal interpretation of the Bible did Darwin’s theory of natural selection also conflicted with Biblical concept of creation but also beliefs of human’s special role in the world Reduced stature of human species in time and space, made people feel “infinitely isolated.”
  15. 15. Late Period (1870-1901): Decay of Victorian Values Jubilee years of 1887 and 1897 (Queen’s 50th and 60th celebrations of ascension) For affluent Victorians, still a time of serenity and security England committed to continuing technological change and also culture of consumerism, generating new products for sale
  16. 16. Wealth of England based on its economic power as an Empire Cost of empire increasingly apparent as rebellions, massacres, bungled wars, etc, took a toll in terms of human and economic capital Germany and US also becoming competitors in terms of trade, industry, and agriculture 1873-5, severe economic depressions caused the rate of emigration to rise alarmingly
  17. 17. Growth of Labor 1867, second Reform Bill, that gave working class men right to vote Trade unions developed, becoming political force, Variety of beliefs, including socialism, Marxism, etc., developed
  18. 18. 1890s Shifts in attitudes of late-Victorians to earnestness of middle-Victorians Attacks by writers of the major mid-Victorian idols and values, seeing strivings as “ultimately pointless” Prince Edward, who was easy-going and pleasure- seeking, was antithesis of father, Prince Albert, an earnest-minded intellectual who devoted life to hard work and administrative responsibilities Writing was melancholic rather than happy, with a weary sophistication; an awareness of living at end of great century, the fin de siecle. Shifting into Modernist movement
  19. 19. The Woman Question Refers to the issue of the woman’s place in English society Conflict between the need for women to have greater economic, educational, and political opportunities versus the idea that women properly belonged in the home as caretaker to family
  20. 20. Legal Rights Women did not have right to vote until 1918 Women could not own or handle their own property until Married Women’s Property Acts was passed 1882 Men could divorce women for adultery but not vice versa unless situation also included abuse, incest, bigamy, etc. Women did not have right to petition court to access minor children or have custody of kids until 1839
  21. 21. Education 1837, none of England’s 3 universities was open to women 1848, first women’s college opened 1859, first woman physician By 1900, women could take degrees at 12 universities and could study, though not earn a degree, at Oxford and Cambridge
  22. 22. Employment Opportunities Industrialization brought work opportunities, challenging notion of “the angel in the house” However, woman often could be employed for less money and worked under harsh conditions in factories, sometimes for as long as 16 hours/day A series of Factory Acts (1802-78) gradually regulated working conditions in mines and factories, reducing 16 hour day and banning women from mine work Bad working conditions and underemployment drove thousands into prostitution as well as the development of pornography
  23. 23. Concern for “surplus” or “redundant” women— unmarried, middle-class women unable to marry due to imbalance of numbers in sexes One solution proposed was emigration but few enough left to make a difference Only “gentile” profession available was governess but there was no security of wages, minimal wages, and ambiguous status
  24. 24. Nature of Woman Virgin/Madonna versus Whore dichotomy; reinforced idea that female sexuality was immoral. One was either pure and virginal or a sex object Doctrine of “separate spheres” with: Man for the field and woman for the hearth: Man for the sword and for the needle she: Man with the head and woman with the heart: Man to command and woman to obey. Claim that women by nature particularly suited for domesticity “Cult of Womanhood”
  25. 25. Women portrayed as particularly suited for domesticity, the “angel in the house” whose role was to provide a place of refuge for her husband. “This is the true nature of home—it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division. In so far as it is not this, it is not home; so far as the anxieties of the outer life penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded, unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world is allowed either by husband or wife to cross the threshold, it ceases to be home; it is then only a part of that outer world which you have roofed over, and lighted fire in. But so far as it is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple of the hearth watched over by household Gods…so far it vindicates the name, and fulfills the praise, of home.”--John Ruskin, “Of
  26. 26. Women pressured to be “enduringly, incorruptibly good; instinctively, infallibly wise—wise, not for self-development, but for self-renunciation” (Ruskin) By 1890s, the “New Woman”, an emerging form of emancipated womanhood, was endlessly debated