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England in the 19 th century (Victorian Age)
England and its victory over Napoleon
In 1805 the Battle of Trafalgar took place. Admiral Nelson’s victory over the French fleet under Napoleon maintained Britain’s supremacy on the oceans and secured him a place in British history as a military hero. He lost his life during this battle and his last words are said to be “Thank God – I have done my duty.”
He found his last resting place in St. Paul’s Cathedral next to Wellington, another hero of that era, who beat Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The growth of the Empire
As all of you know Britain had already acquired a lot of colonies in the previous centuries for example parts of India, Australia Canada and so on.
In the course of the 19th century England expanded its colonies on all continents. Just to mention a few examples.
I want to start with Africa, where England gained the most parts. They took possession of Nigeria, Rhodesia, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa, where in the 80s and at the beginning of the 20th century they waged bloody and costly wars against the Dutch settlers, the Boers to take hold of the diamond fields and mines on their territories.
In Asia they expanded their territories in India, the Malayan states, parts of Aden, New Guinea and many islands in the Pacific Ocean like Fiji and Tonga.
Even Australia and New Zealand were completely colonised in the 19th century.
In America they gained some Caribbean Islands such as Bahamas, Bermudas, Trinidad and Jamaica. On the mainland they acquired British Honduras and British Guyana.
The conquest of all these territories made Britain the leading colonial power of the 19th
century and spread the English language throughout the world.
Vic toria, who was the daughter of the duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, was born in 1819. As her father died in 1820 her childhood wasn’t very happy. She inherited the throne of Great Britain at the age of eighteen, after the death of her unc le William IV in 1837, and reigned until 1901 and she was so successful that here name stands for a whole century. She married her cousin Albert (1819-1861), prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1840, and until his death he remained the focal point of her life. They got nine children her first daughter later became Empress of Germany and her second child Edward king of England after her death. Albert replaced Lord Melbourne, the Whig Prime Minister who had served her as her first personal and political tutor and instructor, as Victoria's chief advisor. Albert was moralistic, conscientious and progressive and with Victoria initiated various reforms and innovations -- he organised the Great Exhibition of 1851, for example - whic h were responsible for a great deal of the popularity later enjoyed by the British monarchy. (In contrast to the Great Exhibition, housed in the Crystal Palace and viewed by proud Victorians as a monument to their own cultural and technological achievement s, however, we may recall that the government over which Victoria and Albert presided had, in the midst of the potato famine of 1845, continued to permit the export of grain and cattle from Ireland to England while over a million Irish peasants starved to death). In 1856 Victoria instituted the Victorian Cross, which became the highest British award for military.
After Albert's death in 1861 a desolate Victoria remained in self- imposed seclusion for ten years. Her ge nuine but obsessive mourning, which would occupy her for the rest of her life, played an important role in the evolution of what would become the Victorian mentality.
Thereafter she lived at Windsor or Balmoral, travelling abroad once a year, but making fe w public appearances in Britain itself. In 1877 she became Empress of India.
By 1870 her popularity was at its lowest point (at the time the monarchy cost the nation £400,000 every year, and many wondered whether the largely symbolic institution was worth the expense), but it increased steadily thereafter until her death. Her golden jubilee in 1887 was a grand national celebration, like her diamond jubilee in 1897. She died at Osborne on January 22, 1901, having reigned for sixty- four years. Because of this long duration, her reign is into three phases – early middle and late.
During the first phase economy was uncertain, even there was an economic depression, no technical invention or notably expansion of the railway network were made. These were associated with discontent and conflict concerning economy, politics, society, religion and culture. This was expressed both in the bitter but successful battle to repeal the Corn Laws, achieved in 1846, and in Chartism, politically unsuccessful at the time, the world’s first openly declared working-class movement.
The Great Exhibition was a huge display “of the works and industry of all nations” and took place at Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. Prince Albert was one of the main organisers so Queen Victoria visited it several times and it became a national experience. It showed England as the world’s first industrial society, the workshop of the world and all inventions, which were made.
The second phase lasted from the Great Exhibition to the middle of the 1870s and was also called High Victorian time. It is characterised by a balance of interest. All sections of the community, except the poorest – industrial employers, landlords, farmers and skilled workers in regular employment - were better off. England reached a political climax in 1867 with the passing of the Second Reform Bill, granting the vote to a section of the working classes, and an economic climax in 1873 with the end of a spectacular mid-Victorian boom.
The third and last phase was similar to the first – economy was in decline. Cheap imports of American wheat undermined the fortunes of English cereal growers and landowners; increasing industrialisation in the United States and in Europe reduced industrial employers’ profit margins; unskilled workers turned to organisations and demanded their share in the benefits of industrialisation. The country was no longer so obviously the workshop of the word, as it had proudly called itself in 1851.
During Victoria’s reign the population increased from less than 16 million people in 1841 up to 22 million in 1871 and 32 million in 1901. Because of better living conditions life expectancy rose for males from 40 to 44 years and for females from 42 to 48 years.
The cities grew very fast, for example London from 2.3 million in 1851 to 4.5 million in 1911. But the most rapid growth was not in the already established industrial cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, but in the clusters of towns around the industrial heartland. That’s why town planners made up large areas of industrial and urban land in which several cities merged to form what is really a single non-rural unit and what they call conurbations. By 1901 only one fifth of the population lived in rural areas, 80 per cent of the population lived in cities.
The Corn Laws of 1815, were regulations applied in Great Britain to the import and export of grain. The main purposes of the Corn Laws were to secure an adequate supply of grain to meet domestic requirements and to maintain grain prices at profitable levels. The laws placed duties on imported and exported grain. In general, the situation of British farmers and workers did not improve. This law excluded almost all foreign grain until the price of domestic wheat reached the high level of 80 shillings per quarter. An increase in the price of bread led to widespread protests. The Corn Law of 1828 permitted importation of grain, but established a sliding scale of import duties intended to maintain the high price of grain. As Great Britain became increasingly industrialized in the Industrial Revolution, dependence on foreign food sources rose, and mercantile interests demanded that Parliament establish free trade and repeal the Corn Laws.
Chartism, also called Chartist movement was popular in Britain from 1838 to 48 for electoral and social reform. It came into existence because the working- class was dissatisfied with the Reform Act and the Poor Law, which they considered as discriminatory. People made up a list of demands and introduced it to Parliament, where it was rejected twice and so they began a strike.
All over the 19th century the Industrial Revolution took place. Work changed completely from handwork to work with machines. Factories came into being and new machines were invented.
- Quote paper
- Moni Wolf (Author), 2000, England in the 19th century (Victorian Age), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/100356