Resource Pack : Introduction

The Victorian Age

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria reigned Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 and gave her name to an age of great social, scientific and economic change. By the end of her reign Britain was not only the wealthiest nation in the world, but also presided over a vast empire which included India, South Africa, Canada and the Far East.

The Industrial Revolution, which helped to create this wealth and empire for Britain, changed ordinary lives. In the late 18th century most British people still lived in the countryside, farming or producing cloth. As new machinery was invented and factories were built to house it a mass migration to towns began. New industry required more workers and women and children went into factories.

Living conditions in towns and cities could be very poor with no toilets or running water and frequent disease. For those who had no money or could not work, the workhouse was the only option and life there was very hard. Poverty forced many people to turn to crime during this time and a police force was introduced. Those who were caught were sent to prison, flogged, sent to penal colonies abroad or even sentenced to death.

The richer sections of society lived very differently. They were often the people who owned the factories or land. They were able to enjoy all the benefits of the industrial revolution; better travel and therefore better holidays, more books and newspapers created by steam-powered printing presses, exhibitions and museums in their free time and by the end of the century electric lighting and the telephone.

Very slowly the power of the monarchy was handed over to Parliament and the gap between rich and poor began to close. The nineteenth century saw Parliament make many changes which affected people's lives in different ways. The reform acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 gradually gave political power to more and more men while judicial divorce became possible in 1857, handing more freedom to women. In 1870 the government decided to provide free education for everyone and built hundreds of new schools.

Work

At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign children as young as five or six worked 12 hours a day in all kinds of jobs.
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School

In the first half of the 19th Century, few children went to school as their families needed them to work and earn money.
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Religion

Victorian values - pride in the home and family bonds - were connected to religion and Christianity was accepted at all levels of society.
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Family & Leisure Time

Victorian Family in Edinburgh detail Poorer children living in cities could not afford toys and so made footballs and cricket balls from old rags and played in the streets.
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Illness, Death & Disaster

Bethlem Hospital Patient detail Because living and working conditions were so poor disease and accidents were common.
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Crime, Punishment & the Law

Child Criminal detail Law and order was very important in Victorian society. As towns and cities grew, so did crime.
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Beyond Britain

Cadbury Family Estate detail Despite overseas conflicts such as the Crimean and Boer Wars, Britain built a fantastic empire during the Victorian age.
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Competition Materials