Such activities were more popular at this time than in other periods of recent Western history. Natural history became increasingly an "amateur" activity. Amateur collectors and natural history entrepreneurs played an important role in building the large natural history collections of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Middle-class Victorians used the train services to visit the seaside, helped by the Bank Holiday Act of , which created a number of fixed holidays. Large numbers travelling to quiet fishing villages such as Worthing , Morecambe and Scarborough began turning them into major tourist centres, and people like Thomas Cook saw tourism and even overseas travel as viable businesses.
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The Victorian Era saw the introduction and development of many modern sports. The modern game of tennis originated in Birmingham, England, between and The world's oldest tennis tournament, the Wimbledon championships , were first played in London in Britain was an active competitor in all the Olympic Games starting in Historians have characterised the mid-Victorian era — as Britain's "Golden Years". Much of the prosperity was due to the increasing industrialisation, especially in textiles and machinery, as well as to the worldwide network of trade and engineering that produced profits for British merchants, and exports from [ clarification needed ] across the globe.
There was peace abroad apart from the short Crimean war, —56 , and social peace at home. Opposition to the new order melted away, says Porter. The Chartist movement peaked as a democratic movement among the working class in ; its leaders moved to other pursuits, such as trade unions and cooperative societies. The working class ignored foreign agitators like Karl Marx in their midst, and joined in celebrating the new prosperity. Employers typically were paternalistic and generally recognised the trade unions.
Middle-class reformers did their best to assist the working classes' aspirations to middle-class norms of "respectability". There was a spirit of libertarianism, says Porter, as people felt they were free. Taxes were very low, and government restrictions were minimal.
There were still problem areas, such as occasional riots, especially those motivated by anti-Catholicism. Society was still ruled by the aristocracy and the gentry, who controlled high government offices, both houses of Parliament, the church, and the military. Becoming a rich businessman was not as prestigious as inheriting a title and owning a landed estate.
Literature was doing well, but the fine arts languished as the Great Exhibition of showcased Britain's industrial prowess rather than its sculpture, painting or music. The educational system was mediocre; the main universities outside Scotland were likewise mediocre. In December Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers founded what is considered the first cooperative in the world. The founding members were a group of 28, around half of which were weavers, who decided to band together to open a store owned and managed democratically by the members, selling food items they could not otherwise afford.
Ten years later, the British co-operative movement had grown to nearly 1, co-operatives. The movement also spread across the world, with the first cooperative financial institution founded in in Germany. The Victorians were impressed by science and progress and felt that they could improve society in the same way as they were improving technology.
Britain was the leading world centre for advanced engineering and technology.
Its engineering firms were in worldwide demand for designing and constructing railways. A central development during the Victorian era was the improvement of communication. The new railways all allowed goods, raw materials, and people to be moved about, rapidly facilitating trade and industry. The financing of railways became an important specialty of London's financiers. Steam ships such as the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western made international travel more common but also advanced trade, so that in Britain it was not just the luxury goods of earlier times that were imported into the country but essentials and raw materials such as corn and cotton from the United States and meat and wool from Australia.
One more important innovation in communications was the Penny Black , the first postage stamp, which standardised postage to a flat price regardless of distance sent. Even later communication methods such as electric power, telegraph , and telephones, had an impact.
Children of the ghetto
By , hand-held cameras were available. Similar sanitation reforms, prompted by the Public Health Acts and , were made in the crowded, dirty streets of the existing cities, and soap was the main product shown in the relatively new phenomenon of advertising. A great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London. It was designed by Joseph Bazalgette in Many problems were encountered but the sewers were completed. After this, Bazalgette designed the Thames Embankment which housed sewers, water pipes and the London Underground.
During the same period, London's water supply network was expanded and improved, and a gas network for lighting and heating was introduced in the s. The model town of Saltaire was founded, along with others, as a planned environment with good sanitation and many civic, educational and recreational facilities, although it lacked a pub , which was regarded as a focus of dissent. During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history.
This study of natural history was most powerfully advanced by Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution first published in his book On the Origin of Species in Although initially developed in the early years of the 19th century, gas lighting became widespread during the Victorian era in industry, homes, public buildings and the streets.
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The invention of the incandescent gas mantle in the s greatly improved light output and ensured its survival as late as the s. Hundreds of gasworks were constructed in cities and towns across the country. In , incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many years before they were installed everywhere. One of the great achievements of the Industrial Revolution in Britain was the introduction and advancement of railway systems, not only in the United Kingdom and the British Empire but across the world.
British engineers and financiers designed, built and funded many major systems. They retained an ownership share even while turning over management to locals; that ownership was largely liquidated in — to pay for the World War. Railroads originated in England because industrialists had already discovered the need for inexpensive transportation to haul coal for the new steam engines, to supply parts to specialized factories, and to take products to market.
The existing system of canals was inexpensive but was too slow and too limited in geography. The engineers and businessmen needed to create and finance a railway system were available; they knew how to invent, to build, and to finance a large complex system. The first quarter of the 19th century involved numerous experiments with locomotives and rail technology. By railways were commercially feasible, as demonstrated by George Stephenson — when he built the Stockton and Darlington.
On his first run, his locomotive pulled 38 freight and passenger cars at speeds as high as 12 miles per hour. They invented and improved thousands of mechanical devices, and developed the science of civil engineering to build roadways, tunnels and bridges. Britain had a superior financial system based in London that funded both the railways in Britain and also in many other parts of the world, including the United States, up until The canal companies, unable or unwilling to upgrade their facilities to compete with railways, used political power to try to stop them.
The railways responded by purchasing about a fourth of the canal system, in part to get the right of way, and in part to buy off critics. Once a charter was obtained, there was little government regulation, as laissez-faire and private ownership had become accepted practices. The different lines typically had exclusive territory, but given the compact size of Britain, this meant that multiple competing lines could provide service between major cities. George Hudson — became the "railway king" of Britain. He merged various independent lines and set up a "Clearing House" in which rationalized interconnections by establishing uniform paperwork and standard methods for transferring passengers and freight between lines, and rates when one system used freight cars owned by another.
By , rates had fallen to a penny a ton mile for coal, at speeds of up to fifty miles an hour. Britain now had had the model for the world in a well integrated, well-engineered system that allowed fast, cheap movement of freight and people, and which could be replicated in other major nations.
The railways directly or indirectly employed tens of thousands of engineers, mechanics, repairmen and technicians, as well as statisticians and financial planners. They developed new and more efficient and less expensive techniques. Most important, they created a mindset of how technology could be used in many different forms of business. Railways had a major impact on industrialization. By lowering transportation costs, they reduced costs for all industries moving supplies and finished goods, and they increased demand for the production of all the inputs needed for the railroad system itself.
By , there were 13, locomotives which each carried 97, passengers a year, or 31, tons of freight. India provides an example of the London-based financiers pouring money and expertise into a very well built system designed for military reasons after the Mutiny of , and with the hope that it would stimulate industry. The system was overbuilt and much too elaborate and expensive for the small amount of freight traffic it carried.
However, it did capture the imagination of the Indians, who saw their railways as the symbol of an industrial modernity—but one that was not realized until a century or so later. Medicine progressed during Queen Victoria's reign. Although nitrous oxide , or laughing gas, had been proposed as an anaesthetic as far back as by Humphry Davy , it wasn't until when an American dentist named William Morton started using ether on his patients that anaesthetics became common in the medical profession.
Anaesthetics made painless dentistry possible. At the same time sugar consumption in the British diet increased, greatly increasing instances of tooth decay. This gave rise to "Waterloo Teeth", which were real human teeth set into hand-carved pieces of ivory from hippopotamus or walrus jaws. Medicine also benefited from the introduction of antiseptics by Joseph Lister in in the form of carbolic acid phenol.
The Victorian era was a time of unprecedented population growth in Britain. The population rose from Two major contributary factors were fertility rates and mortality rates.
Britain was the first country to undergo the demographic transition and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. Britain had the lead in rapid economic and population growth. At the time, Thomas Malthus believed this lack of growth outside Britain was due to the ' Malthusian trap '. That is, the tendency of a population to expand geometrically while resources grew more slowly, reaching a crisis such as famine, war, or epidemic which would reduce the population to a sustainable size.
Britain escaped the 'Malthusian trap' because the Industrial Revolution had a positive impact on living standards. In the Victorian era, fertility rates increased in every decade until , when the rates started evening out. Another possible explanation is social. In the 19th century, the marriage rate increased, and people were getting married at a very young age until the end of the century, when the average age of marriage started to increase again slowly.ergo-docs.therefore.ca/28018.php
Victorian Britain: a brief history / Historical Association
The reasons why people got married younger and more frequently are uncertain. One theory is that greater prosperity allowed people to finance marriage and new households earlier than previously possible. With more births within marriage, it seems inevitable that marriage rates and birth rates would rise together. This is indeed a crude measure, as key groups and their fertility rates are not clear.
It is likely to be affected mainly by changes in the age distribution of the population. The Net Reproduction Rate was then introduced as an alternative measure: High rates of birth also occurred because of a lack of birth control. Mainly because women lacked knowledge of birth control methods and the practice was seen as unrespectable. The mortality rates in England changed greatly through the 19th century. Environmental and health standards rose throughout the Victorian era; improvements in nutrition may also have played a role, although the importance of this is debated.
With a healthier environment, diseases were caught less easily and did not spread as much. Technology improved because the population had more money to spend on medical technology for example, techniques to prevent death in childbirth, so that more women and children survived , which also led to a greater number of cures for diseases. However, there was a cholera epidemic in London in —49, which killed 14, people, and another in killing 10, Reformers rushed to complete a modern London sewerage system. Gothic Revival architecture became increasingly significant during the period, leading to the Battle of the Styles between Gothic and Classical ideals.
Charles Barry 's architecture for the new Palace of Westminster , which had been badly damaged in an fire , was built in the medieval style of Westminster Hall , the surviving part of the building. It constructed a narrative of cultural continuity, set in opposition to the violent disjunctions of Revolutionary France , a comparison common to the period, as expressed in Thomas Carlyle 's The French Revolution: Gothic was also supported by critic John Ruskin , who argued that it epitomised communal and inclusive social values, as opposed to Classicism, which he considered to epitomise mechanical standardisation.
The middle of the 19th century saw The Great Exhibition of , the first World's Fair , which showcased the greatest innovations of the century. It was condemned by Ruskin as the very model of mechanical dehumanisation in design but later came to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography , showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art with Queen Victoria being the first British monarch to be photographed.
John Everett Millais was influenced by photography notably in his portrait of Ruskin as were other Pre-Raphaelite artists. It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl.
The long-term effect of the reform movements was to tightly link the nonconformist element with the Liberal party. The dissenters gave significant support to moralistic issues, such as temperance and sabbath enforcement. The nonconformist conscience , as it was called, was repeatedly called upon by Gladstone for support for his moralistic foreign policy. In Scotland, the Presbyterians played a similar role to the Nonconformist Methodists, Baptists and other groups in England and Wales  The political strength of Dissent faded sharply after with the secularization of British society in the 20th century.
The rise of the middle class during the era had a formative effect on its character; the historian Walter E. Houghton reflects that "once the middle class attained political as well as financial eminence, their social influence became decisive. The Victorian frame of mind is largely composed of their characteristic modes of thought and feeling".
Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle class home and lifestyle. Previously, in town and city, residential space was adjacent to or incorporated into the work site, virtually occupying the same geographical space.
The difference between private life and commerce was a fluid one distinguished by an informal demarcation of function. In the Victorian era, English family life increasingly became compartmentalised, the home a self-contained structure housing a nuclear family extended according to need and circumstance to include blood relations. The concept of "privacy" became a hallmark of the middle-class life.
The English home closed up and darkened over the decade s , the cult of domesticity matched by a cult of privacy.
The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period
Bourgeois existence was a world of interior space, heavily curtained off and wary of intrusion, and opened only by invitation for viewing on occasions such as parties or teas. It seemed logical to then move outside the house and into the street. I wanted to find out, where did he pick up the cab? Did it wait at a cabstand, like now?
That kind of thing. This leads us neatly on to the first of your five books. A huge number of books have been written about Dickens — why did you choose this one? I would love to have been able to write this book. Yet at the same time it ranges widely. And the book is an exploration of the circumstances, both external and internal, that created the writer we know.
These experiences, which could have taken him on lots of routes, led him to be the writer we know. Douglas-Fairhurst examines both how and why. He is an amazingly close reader of the novels and a terrific stylist. It told me new things about a subject I thought I knew well, it made even the things I knew about already consistently interesting, because of a really original point of view, and it made me laugh. Douglas-Fairhurst has said that few people lead as many lives as Dickens — novelist, playwright, actor, social campaigner, journalist, editor, philanthropist, amateur conjurer, celebrity — and that trying to pin him down is like putting your thumb on a blob of mercury.
He just never stopped, and each thing was different, and each done with amazing energy. I have focused on Dickens as an observer of London, as a city walker — mile walks were routine for him, several times a week. But it would have been just as possible to do a different half-dozen Dickenses. This was really a groundbreaking book. An awful lot of history gets written working from assumptions: But that is, of course, not the case.
And so it is hugely important to get back to the detail, to do the sums, tally up the numbers, before we make sweeping statements. He looks not just at what was written, but how it was published and marketed and sold, who had access to it, how much it cost, who read it, and so on. Even little things are clues for him. For example, he notes that philosophy, travel, sermons and poetry were published with expensive bindings, but that novels rarely were, which tells us about attitudes to the different genres.
It sounds really nerdy, but the best part is the appendixes, particularly where he looks at the actual numbers. A useful reminder that what we think about writers now is not necessarily how their reputations stood at the time. He notes that Lyrical Ballads had a print run of about 2, copies.
So how many people actually had access to it? Similarly, the contemporary influence of Thomas Paine has, he suggests, been hugely overstated. The supposed many hundreds of thousands of copies of Common Sense that were rapidly sold in every village on the globe defy credibility. Clearly the influence of both Wordsworth and Paine were great, but in a more nuanced fashion. Your next book is by the German-born author Wolfgang Schivelbusch.
Before we talk about the title you have chosen, perhaps you can tell us more about this author and his body of work? I wish I could. He appears not to be an academic, but works on his own — and I think he lives in New York. But I know nothing more about him personally. If anyone does, do let me know!
For example, his The Culture of Defeat: What is really fascinating are the parallels he finds across centuries and societies — both inspiring and rather frightening. The title you have chosen is about the introduction of artificial lighting — something we take for granted today but which had a huge impact on everyday life in this period.
Can you tell us more about this book and why you chose it? Nonetheless, Zangwill took a bold stand against a number of contemporary stereotypes. He describes Petticoat Lane as a place where Jews of all social classes congregate to experience the smells and tastes that remind them of their roots. The distinctive dynamism of immigrant culture, for him, was precisely what was valuable about it. Zangwill also broke new ground in depicting the diversity of contemporary Jewish life.
Children of the Ghetto explores divisions among Jews who are wealthy and poor, orthodox and secular, immigrant and English-born, men and women, parents and children. This was a fractured, deracinated population — uncertain of its future, at a moment of critical change. The app brings to life the dilemmas that beset immigrants and their children in the context of fierce debates about migration from more than a century ago. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Children of the Ghetto is that it became a bestseller following its publication and was repeatedly reprinted for several decades.
Written in the context of widespread confusion about immigration, the novel opened up a little-known world to the reading public. But Victorian readers found more than novelty in its pages: Readers discovered that the struggles of Jewish immigrants in Victorian London were not so different from their own.
She researches and teaches the literature of east London, where she also leads guided walks.
Related Life in 19th Century Britain (Exploring History)
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