Economy and society, The pressure for reform, Technological innovation, The cost of living, Poverty and the Poor Laws, Managing the empire, The Victorian compromise, Darwin (2 pagine formato doc)
THE VICTORIAN AGE THE VICTORIAN AGE Economy and society The Victorian age took its name from Queen Victoria, whose reign (1837 - 1901) was the longest in the history of England.
It was a period of economical and territorial expansion. The modern urban economy of manufacturing industry and international trade took over from the old agricultural economy. “Free trade” became the dominant economic ethos without changes in the political and social structure. Britain was the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. This was the result of material exploitation of its growing number of colonies. With the revival of revolutionary activity in continental Europe, the unsettled masses of the urban poor were perceived as a potential danger to the existing order of things and gradually over the century steps were taken to incorporate portions of the working classes into society through a series of reforms and progressive policies.
The pressure for reform After the French Revolution, Britain had turned politically conservative. Industrial regions of the country were not so well represented, votes had to be declared publicly, was often subject to bribery or intimidation. These factors gave rise to the working class Chartist movement. The Chartists' demands contained six points: votes for all males; annually elected parliaments; payment of Members of Parliament; secret voting; abolition of the property qualification for candidates seeking election; the establishment of electoral districts equal in population. The People's Charter was rejected three times over a period of 10 years. The third petition was rejected in 1848, the year that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote their Communist Manifesto denouncing the alienation of labour under capitalist organisation, and revolution was erupting again across Europe. In Britain however, there was no such risk of a mass uprising. The Chartists were poorly organised and split by internal differences. All their demands, except that for an annually elected parliament became law between 1860 and 1914. A series of reform bills in the second half of the century gradually extended the vote to members of the working classes until the first demand of the Chartists, that of giving all men the right to vote, was granted in 1918. Women, however, had to wait until 1928 before they too were all able to vote. Technological innovation The mid 19th century was also a time of great technological innovation: the invention of steam-powered machinery, the development of railways, became faster and more efficient, leading to the rapid expansion of urban centres. The Great Exhibition (1851) held in Crystal Palace (London), became a symbol for Britain's dominant position as an industrial and imperial trading power. Communications were also greatly improved thanks to a more efficient mail service and the invention of the telephone. Printing became cheaper, which led to a proliferation of literary production of all types. Th