Prime Ministers of the period included: William Pitt the Younger, Lord Grenville, Duke of Portland, Spencer Perceval, Lord Liverpool, George Canning, Lord Goderich, Duke of Wellington, Lord Grey, Lord Melbourne, and Sir Robert Peel.
Queen Victoria (1837–1901)
Victoria became queen in 1837 at age 18. Her long reign until 1901 saw Britain reach the zenith of its economic and political power. Exciting new technologies such as steam ships, railroads, photography, and telegraphs appeared, making the world much faster-paced. Britain again remained mostly inactive in Continental politics, and it was not affected by the wave of revolutions in 1848. The Victorian era saw the fleshing out of the second British Empire. Scholars debate whether the Victorian period—as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political concerns that have come to be associated with the Victorians—actually begins with her coronation or the earlier passage of the Reform Act 1832. The era was preceded by the Regency era and succeeded by the Edwardian period.
Historians like Bernard Porter have characterized the mid-Victorian era, (1850–1870) as Britain’s ‘Golden Years.’ There was peace and prosperity, as the national income per person grew by half. Much of the prosperity was due to the increasing industrialization, especially in textiles and machinery, as well as to the worldwide network of trade and engineering that produce profits for British merchants and experts from across the globe. There was peace abroad (apart from the short Crimean war, 1854–56), 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 1848; 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 recognized the trade unions. Companies provided their employees with welfare services ranging from housing, schools and churches, to libraries, baths, and gymnasia. Middle-class reformers did their best to assist the working classes aspire to middle-class norms of ‘respectability.’
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