The Victorian Age
The Victorian age in English literature, though commonly associated with the reign of Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837, does not exactly cover the period of that august Queen’s reign. This designation, however, is particularly given because of the importance of the age of Queen Victoria and its effect on the literature of the time.
The Victorian Age has a specific significance in the history of England, as it was an era of peace and growth on all fronts. The Victorian Period is found to mark the advancement of the English people in political expansion, scientific knowledge as also materialistic pursuits and progress.
The Victorian Age was an era of peace. The echoes of the French Revolution were heard no more, and the country stood firmly on a solid faith in monarchical authority. The Queen enjoyed immense position and popularity and no thought of political upheaval could be at all imagined even.
Of course, outside Victorian England, there were wars and England was involved in them. Colonial wars and the Crimean war dominated certain years of the age, yet they had no deep impact on English national life. The Civil War in America had its echo in England, but that, too, was not allowed much to deviate the normal English vocation of the peace time.
The Victorian Age in England was also an era of progress- of course material progress. The age witnessed the Industrial Revolution in its full swing. Mechanical devices were much developed and productivity could be increased almost to an incredible range by the application of machines. Moreover, there was a revolution in the commercial enterprise with the immense expansion of the available markets. England, in fact, flourished in trade and industries, and the benefits of the Industrial Revolution were well reaped by the Englishmen of the time.
In the political sphere, England also recorded and important expansion in The Victorian Period. The British Empire expanded to the remote parts of the world and the British colonies were firmly founded in different countries. England became, in fact, a prominent world power.
Besides the revolution in the technique of production, brought forth by the invention of the steam engine, there was another significant revolution in scientific thoughts as a result of Darwin’s great theory of the Evolution of the Species. That was something shocking for the age, but it firmly laid the foundation of rational enquiries and scientific culture in the human world.
Of course, all was not gold in The Victorian Age . The industrial and commercial development had also the bleak side to show. Unhealthy slums grew up in new industrial cities and the free open air country life was abandoned for obtaining occupations in different industries. The tendency had a terrible reaction, not simply in the degeneration of the living condition, but also in the ruthless exploitation of cheap labour, including children, for large, selfish and individual profits.
Of course, The Victorian Age also witnessed a potential religious movement in the Oxford movement. The great religious preceptors, like Newman, had a significant role in the attempt to lessen the materialistic trends by a return to Christian devotion. That was definitely an indication of all round advancement.