Victorian Era 1837-1901

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Queen Victoria's Life


Peoples Role

  • Women

Victorians had a very interesting view towards women, called the “Woman Question”. At the same time that women were gaining many liberties they were still expected to stay home and care for the house and their husband’s needs. Married women did have huge advancements in rights during this time. The first laws were passed that allowed women to own property and to have custody of their children. Schools were opened up for the higher education of women, and their hours in the factory were cut down to a maximum of ten and a half per day. Chloroform was also first used during this time period during childbirth. Women’s suffrage was also first introduced in the 1840’s although it would be much later before it would pass into law.
At the same time that women were gaining independence they were also performing many of the typical woman’s tasks. Queen Victoria is a perfect example of the paradox; while she was leading a country by herself she was always painted in a feminine position.

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  • Children
This quote describes what some children had to experience working during the Victorian Era: “Chained, belted, harnessed like dogs…black, saturated with wet, and more than half-naked, crawling upon their hands and knees, and dragging their heavy loads behind them.” Not all children could have fun and play games, most had to work to provide for their families. These children workers helped England’s economy and so Parliament supported child labor. Children were hired because they were small, could be paid less and would not revolt against the factory owners. These young children were often separated from their families during the long working day. Children received less education and schooling in the Victorian Era, because it was not needed for their everyday job. They held jobs in textile factories, coalmines, sweatshops, chimneysweepers, and as servants. The working conditions that surrounded them were dirty and unhealthy. Luckily, “In 1833 a law was passed limiting the amount of hours kids could work in textile factories, and in 1842 the law was extended to child in mines. Finally in 1847 Parliament outlawed females and boys under ten from working in mines.” These laws helped save many children but did not rectify the situation at hand.
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Role in Africa

The “scramble for Africa” took place during the Victorian era. It was during this time that the major European powers fought for control of African land and set up colonies throughout the continent. The European countries wanted cash crops; rubber, sugar, coffee, timber etc. and forced the natives to harvest these crops for them, despite the recent end of slave labor. This was an embarrassing time for England. The country fought against the African natives and lost a lot of these battles. The British army attempted to create a war between the natives so that England could claim the land for itself. This backfired, however, when the army soon found itself fighting a guerilla war in unfamiliar territory. This particular war lasted for a year after the death of Queen Victoria. This is just one example of the problems England had in Africa during the Victorian era.


The art from this time period is considered “sappy and moralistic” it uses imagination and social commentary. The artists often depicted everyday common themes, such as working in the factories, as well as historic themes. Landscapes of mountains and ships at sea were also commonly depicted. It does not have the “Physical sensuousness of French painting” and some critics wished that Victorians expressed their impulses, but the technical aspect of Victorian art was wonderfully done. One of the most famous artist of the time was William Powell Frith, he was said to be Queen Victoria's favorite artist. He depicted everyday life for both the rich and the poor and literary and historical scenes.
Many Happy Returns of the Day 1856
Many Happy Returns of the Day 1856


  • Food
The Victorian Era introduced many new ideas to the culinary world. The upper middle class and the high class served nine small and light courses at their extravagant parties. They cooked with fine ingredients to enhance the food’s taste. One of the most common things that we think of when we think of the England is high tea. This ritual was established by Anna Duchess of Bedford, Queen Victoria’s lady in waiting. Those of noble statute usually had a grand breakfast, a small lunch and a very late dinner. Anna usually got hungry in between lunch and dinner and started requesting tea with petite sized cakes. From her the idea spread to the rest of England. Tea dances were also created for ladies to meet their potential husbands.

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During this time period culinary schools were started and the preparation of meals were written down for the first time. Agnes B. Marshall and Isabella Beeton created the first cookbooks. The famous quotes, “A place for everything and everything in its place” and “Dine we must and we may as well dine elegantly as well as wholesome” were introduced into society by Ms. Beeton. Not only were cookbooks and recipe cards new, can openers and Ball Mason Jars were created to ease the life of the Victorian people.
  • Games
The Victorians loved playing games and leisurely activities at their parties and in everyday life. Most of these activities consisted of trying not to laugh.
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  • Poor Pussy is a game where one member crawls on all fours among the seated company and meowed. After stopping in front of a seated person, the seated person had to say, “Poor Pussy!” with an absolute straight face. If either of them smiled or laughed they would have to switch roles.
  • The laughing game is a game when the guests go around the table and say, “Ha!”. The next person adds another “Ha”. This game goes on increasing the hah’s each time until someone messes up or laughs.
  • O’Grady says is just like modern day Simon Says. Hot Boiled Beans is like
  • Hot and Cold, when an object is hiddent and the guests give hints as to were it is.
  • The Victorians also created charades, musical chairs, and blind man’s bluff


There are many famous writers in this important era. Some of the better known ones are Charles Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Lewis Carroll. These authors usually wrote about conflicts of sense of self. They used new language and tried to portray the economy, religion, and the life in London. The writers of this time period sometimes rewrote the poems from the Romantic era and constantly referred to the past. The themes from this time period include questioning religion and turmoil. They wrote about moral decline, such as “the fallen woman” which was now referred to as “the new woman”. The laws about sexuality did not apply anymore.
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

  • Oliver Twist, Hard Times, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities
  • Work was sentimental and caused readers to empathize with poor
  • "All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretenses did I cheat myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad half-crown of somebody else's manufacture, is reasonable enough; but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own make, as good money!"
    - Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

  • Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet in 1850)
  • Memorandum- pop in middle class promoted Christian values and Romantic “allusions at past”
    Emily Bronte
    Emily Bronte

    Women- prolific writers
  • Charlotte and Emily Bronte
    • Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, George Eliot
    • "Life appers to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs."
      • -Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer

Charles Darwin-
  • The Origin of Species, 1859
  • Hypothesis-Natural Selection
  • Chance-not divine planàevolution of species

Herbert Spencer and Rudyard Kipling

  • Darwin’s ideas and used them to explain conquests of people throughout world in search for imperialism
  • Social Darwinism and “survival of the fittest” and Made imperialism ideolog

During the time of Queen Victoria, Great Britain was very elegant yet plain. Women wore extravagant dresses yet these dresses came in simple-dull coloring. The Victorian Style applied very expensive fabrics, usually containing elaborate designs, with a combination of light and dark coloring. Women were, for most of the Victorian Era, permitted to wear gloves and dress that went past their feet or ankles, exposing absolutely no skin.
The men mostly wore plain button down shirts. Most men wore dark vests with two or three buttons. For bottoms, they would wear black or grey pants. Hats also became popular, usually varying in light colors, such as tan or light blue.
The Children wore the same as men. They were expected look and take on the responsibility of a young adult.
The richer women’s fashion changed rapidly to all styles of clothing. Usually turning to theater for their inspiration, women wore lavishly trimmed gowns with artificial flowers and ribbons. In 1874, the silhouette began to compress to reveal the female torso, which created harder edges. Fashion plates also became popular, however it also became a burden to women and slowed them down tremendously. Soft natural female curves were remodeled into hard rigid arcs. The weight of the rear extension decreased mobility; some dresses even weighing up to ten pounds. Their bonnets and hats were very elaborative with many decorative accessories; women might have worn flowers or ribbons on her bonnet to show it off.
The middle class and the poor wore less valuable versions of the wealthy. The fabrics and material were less expensive and the not as beautiful in that time period. The poorer class did not have the money or care to wear such extravagant clothing.


Victorian architecture is actually a combination of many different styles. In the early Victorian times there was a period of Gothic revival. The most famous architect of this time was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. He built many structures which have become famous over the years, such as the Palace of Westminster. The gothic buildings are very extravagant. There are towers and beautifully shaped windows, with some of the buildings looking like stereotypical castles.
The next style that became popular was the Italianate Revival. The most famous architect from this time was Charles Barry; he was commissioned by the Second Duke of Sutherland. This style was all about textures and having large windows. The houses Barry built for the Duke were soon popular throughout the country.
Late Victorian architecture was different from both of these styles. It involved simpler plans. The houses were built to be more functional. They were not any less beautiful but the focus was on simplicity, making the designs that were created more powerful. The most well known architect of this period was Richard Norman Shaw. It was during this time that the “Old English”, “Queen Ann”, and “Arts and Crafts” movements took place.

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The church used to have an enormous amount of control over the people of England. Prior to the Victorian Era schooling was only available to a very small number of people and many were uneducated. People were read the bible growing up and that was all they knew, so that was what they believed.
During the Victorian era for the first time schooling became regularly available to the public. As people gained knowledge they started to question their religious beliefs. The church used to rule the people, without questioning, but in this era people started to doubting their religious beliefs, weakening the church’s authority over the people.
This was the era of enlightenment. Reason and science questioned old superstitions and religious beliefs. People began thinking new thoughts instead of believing in solely what they used to be taught. Alternative thinkers wrote their thoughts and findings, weakening the churches hold over the people.
The validity of the bible was questioned for the first time due to the publishing of Charles Darwin’s work on evolution, “The origin of the species” In the bible a reading from Genesis states that we are God’s creation and made in our creators image. The theory of evolution was challenging this. The bible and readings were reevaluated and questioned. The church was divided by conflicting beliefs.

On the other hand missionary work flourished tremendously. The Salvation Army was established by William and Catherine Booth. There were also many who left England to travel abroad and teach the Christian Word to Africa, India, America, and China.


During the second half of the Victorian Age, the most pivotal city switched from Paris to London. London’s population expanded from 2 million, when Queen Victoria came to throne, to 6.5 million at the time of her death. This new development in the Victorian age was the shift from ownership of land the source of wealth to a modern urban economy based on production and commerce. Influencing this expansion, the availability of work in Britain’s mills and factories, specifically after the introduction of steam power, which drew the people to rapidly increasing cities. England became one of the first countries to become industrialized, which resulted her easy capture towards markets all over the globe. England’s manufactured products were exported in English ships, called a merchant convoy. The profits made from trade led to capital investments in all countries, resulting in England’s almighty sphere of influence.
Great wealth was created for owner and investors of manufacturing plants, transportation companies, etc. The industrial expansion created massive numbers of factory jobs. England’s rapid expansion and population growth overflow its cities. Worker’s houses were mainly built near factories so that people could walk to their work. These houses were made hastily and inexpensively, most homes consisting of 2-4 rooms, while Victorian families grew with four to five children. Houses were also tightly fitted, with narrow streets between.
Many workers working in the factories were children. They worked long hours and were often treated unkindly by the supervisors. These children were as young as four years old, and worked for insignificant wages.