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Victorian Era


Introduction

The Victorian era is the terminology used to refer to the period during which Great Britain was under the reign of Queen Victoria. It was a period which had certain characteristics that marked it out from other periods in the history of Britain. The Victorian era was preceded by the Georgian era and succeeded by the Edwardian era. This period of British history spanned about 63 years, starting from when she began to reign in 1837 and ending upon her death in 1901.Some Scholars date this period between 1830, which marked the end of the age of Romanticism, and 1900, which marked the end of the previous century.

The characteristics of the Victorian Era

The Victorian era had many characteristics which distinguished it from other eras. These characteristics were mostly in terms of social attitudes and cultural traits that marked the prevailing behaviour of ‘Englishmen’ from other periods. This period of British history was characterized by puritanical attitudes and straight-laced language. Emphasis was placed on ‘proper attitudes’ and social etiquette. British economy was on the ascendancy, facilitated by the industrial revolution thus leading to an expansion of the middle class. Many of the middle class aspired to be admitted into the class of nobility and believed that a significant step towards achieving this was assuming ‘proper’ attitudes and social etiquette characteristic of the noble class. This is one major reason why the common view of Victorian era attitudes was of prudishness and hypocrisy. Though this stereotype may not apply without exception, it was true of the majority in this period. The Victorian era was characterized by a cultural paradigm shift from rationalism towards romanticism and mysticism as regards religion, social norms and the liberal arts. The Victorian era was characterized by the Pax Britannica as there was a long period of peace in the relationship that existed among European nations. It was also marked by economic development, rapid population growth and strengthening of colonial expansion.

Some Important Personalities during the Victorian Era

The Victorian era was partly shaped by two very important British prime ministers; Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. Disraeli was a member of the Conservative Party while Gladstone belonged to the Liberal Party. Though Disraeli was favoured by Queen Victoria being quite sociable, Gladstone who did not quite get on well with the Queen served more terms as Prime Minister. The contrasting opinions of these two men had tremendous impact in the course of history.

 

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