Victorian era facts
Queen Victoria, after whom the era is named
|Preceded by||Georgian era|
|Followed by||Edwardian era|
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The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, "refined sensibilities" and national self-confidence for the United Kingdom. Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.
Within the fields of social history and literature, Victorianism refers to the study of late-Victorian attitudes and culture, with a focus on the highly moralistic, straitlaced language and behaviour of Victorian morality. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period. The later half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the first part of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe.
Culturally there was a transition away from the rationalism of the Georgian period and toward romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts. In international relations the period was one of relative peace in Europe, known as the Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily disrupted by the Crimean War in 1854. The end of the period saw the Boer War. Domestically, the agenda was increasingly liberal with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political reform, industrial reform and the widening of the voting franchise.
Two especially important figures in this period of British history are the prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, whose contrasting views changed the course of history. Disraeli, favoured by the queen, was a gregarious Conservative. His rival Gladstone, a Liberal distrusted by the Queen, served more terms and oversaw much of the overall legislative development of the era.
The population of England and Wales almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901. Scotland's population also rose rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901. However, Ireland's population decreased sharply, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901, mostly due to the Great Famine. Between 1837 and 1901 about 15 million emigrants departed the UK permanently, in search of a better life in the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.
During the early part of the era, politics in the House of Commons involved battles between the two main parties, the Whigs/Liberals and the Conservatives. These parties were led by such prominent statesmen as Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli, and Lord Salisbury. The unsolved problems relating to Irish Home Rule played a great part in politics in the later Victorian era, particularly in view of Gladstone's determination to achieve a political settlement in Ireland.
Political and diplomatic history
Victoria became queen in 1837 at age 18. Her long reign until 1901 was mainly a time of peace and prosperity for many. There were no great wars. Britain reached the zenith of its economic, political, diplomatic and cultural power. The era saw the expansion of the second British Empire.
Historians have characterised the mid-Victorian era (1850–1870) as Britain's "Golden Years". There was prosperity, as the national income per person grew by half. Much of the prosperity was due to the increasing industrialisation, especially in textiles and machinery, as well as to the worldwide network of trade and engineering that produced profits for British merchants, and exports 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 recognised 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' aspirations to middle-class norms of "respectability".
There was a spirit of libertarianism, says Porter, as people felt they were free. Taxes were very low, and government restrictions were minimal. There were still problem areas, such as occasional riots, especially those motivated by anti-Catholicism. Society was still ruled by the aristocracy and the gentry, who controlled high government offices, both houses of Parliament, the church, and the military. Becoming a rich businessman was not as prestigious as inheriting a title and owning a landed estate. Literature was doing well, but the fine arts languished as the Great Exhibition of 1851 showcased Britain's industrial prowess rather than its sculpture, painting or music. The educational system was mediocre; the main universities (outside Scotland) were likewise mediocre. Historian Llewellyn Woodward has concluded:
- For leisure or work, for getting or for spending, England was a better country in 1879 than in 1815. The scales were less weighted against the weak, against women and children, and against the poor. There was greater movement, and less of the fatalism of an earlier age. The public conscience was more instructed, and the content of liberty was being widened to include something more than freedom from political constraint ... Yet England in 1871 was by no means an earthly paradise. The housing and conditions of life of the working class in town & country were still a disgrace to an age of plenty.
Population in the Victorian era
The Victorian era was a time of unprecedented population growth in Britain. The population rose from 13.9 million in 1831 to 32.5 million in 1901. Two major contributary factors were fertility rates and mortality rates. Britain was the first country to undergo the Demographic transition and the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.
Britain had the lead in rapid economic and population growth. At the time, Thomas Malthus believed this lack of growth outside Britain was due to the 'Malthusian trap'. That is, the tendency of a population to expand geometrically while resources grew more slowly, reaching a crisis (such as famine, war, or epidemic) which would reduce the population to a sustainable size. Britain escaped the 'Malthusian trap' because the Industrial Revolution had a positive impact on living standards. People had more money and could improve their standards; therefore, a population increase was sustainable.
In the Victorian era, fertility rates increased in every decade until 1901, when the rates started evening out. There were several reasons for this. One is biological: with improving living standards, a higher proportion of women were biologically able to have children. Another possible explanation is social. In the 19th century, the marriage rate increased, and people were getting married at a very young age until the end of the century, when the average age of marriage started to increase again slowly. The reasons why people got married younger and more frequently are uncertain. One theory is that greater prosperity allowed people to finance marriage and new households earlier than previously possible. With more births within marriage, it seems inevitable that marriage rates and birth rates would rise together.
Birth rates were originally measured by the 'Crude birth rate' – births per year divided by total population. This is indeed a crude measure, as key groups and their fertility rates are not clear. It is likely to be affected mainly by changes in the age distribution of the population. The Net Reproduction Rate was then introduced as an alternative measure: it measures the average fertility rate of women of child-bearing ages.
The evening out of fertility rates at the beginning of the 20th century was mainly the result of a few big changes: availability of forms of birth control, and changes in people's attitude towards sex.
The mortality rates in England changed greatly through the 19th century. There was no catastrophic epidemic or famine in England or Scotland in the 19th century – it was the first century in which a major epidemic did not occur throughout the whole country, and deaths per 1000 of population per year in England and Wales fell from 21.9 from 1848–54 to 17 in 1901 (cf, for instance, 5.4 in 1971). Social class had a significant effect on mortality rates: the upper classes had a lower rate of premature death early in the 19th century than poorer classes did.
Environmental and health standards rose throughout the Victorian era; improvements in nutrition may also have played a role, although the importance of this is debated. Sewage works were improved, as was the quality of drinking water. With a healthier environment, diseases were caught less easily and did not spread as much. Technology improved because the population had more money to spend on medical technology (for example, techniques to prevent death in childbirth, so that more women and children survived), which also led to a greater number of cures for diseases. However, there was a cholera epidemic in London in 1848–49, which killed 14,137 people, and another in 1853 killing 10,738. Reformers rushed to complete a modern London sewerage system. Tuberculosis (spread in congested dwellings), lung diseases from the mines and typhoid remained common.
The Nonconformist conscience was the moralistic influence of the Nonconformist churches in British politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Historians group Methodists together with other Protestant groups as "Nonconformists" or "Dissenters" standing in opposition to the established Church of England. In the 19th century the Dissenters who went to chapel comprised half the people who actually attended services on Sunday, according to an 1852 census. They were based in the fast-growing urban middle class. The "Nonconformist conscience" was their moral sensibility which they tried to implement in British politics, even though they suffered political disabilities that reduced their political power until the 1830s. The two categories of Dissenters, or Nonconformists, were in addition to the evangelicals or "Low Church" element in the Church of England. "Old Dissenters," dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, included Baptists, Congregationalists, Quakers, Unitarians, and Presbyterians outside Scotland. "New Dissenters" emerged in the 18th century and were mainly Methodists. The "Nonconformist conscience" of the Old group emphasised religious freedom and equality, the pursuit of justice, and opposition to discrimination, compulsion, and coercion. The New Dissenters (and also the Anglican evangelicals) stressed personal morality issues, including sexuality, temperance, family values, and Sabbath-keeping. Both factions were politically active, but until the mid-19th century, the Old group supported mostly Whigs and Liberals in politics, while the New—like most Anglicans—generally supported Conservatives. In the late 19th century, the New Dissenters mostly switched to the Liberal Party. The result was a merging of the two groups, strengthening their great weight as a political pressure group. The joined together on new issues especially regarding schools and temperance, with the latter of special interest to Methodists. By 1914 the linkage was weakening and by the 1920s it was virtually dead.
Nonconformists: Disabilities removed
Parliament had imposed a series of disabilities on Nonconformists, Including Methodists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Quakers and Presbyterians outside Scotland. Strictly enforced laws, supported by the established Church of England, prevented them from holding most public offices, required them to pay local taxes to the Anglican church, be married by Anglican ministers, and be denied attendance at Oxford or degrees at Cambridge. Dissenters demanded the removal of political and civil disabilities that applied to them (especially those in the Test and Corporation Acts). The Anglican establishment strongly resisted until 1828. The Test Act of 1673 made it illegal for anyone not receiving communion in the Church of England hold office under the crown. The Corporation Act of 1661 did likewise for offices in municipal government. In 1732, Nonconformists in the City of London created an association, the Dissenting Deputies to secure repeal of the Test and Corporation acts. The Deputies became a sophisticated pressure group and worked with liberal Whigs to achieve repeal in 1828. It was a major achievement for an outside group, but the Dissenters were not finished.
Next on the agenda was the matter of church rates, which were local taxes at the parish level for the support of the parish church building in England and Wales. Only buildings of the established church received the tax money. Civil disobedience was attempted but was met with the seizure of personal property and even imprisonment. The compulsory factor was finally abolished in 1868 by William Ewart Gladstone, and payment was made voluntary. While Gladstone was a moralistic evangelical inside the Church of England, he had strong support in the Nonconformist community. The marriage question was settled in 1837, by allowing local government registrars to handle marriages. Nonconformist ministers in their own chapels were allowed to marry couples if a registrar was present. Also in 1836, civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages was taken from the hands of local parish officials and given to local government registrars. Burial of the dead was a more troubling problem, for urban chapels had no graveyards, and sought to use the traditional graveyards controlled by the established church. The Burials Act of 1880 finally allowed that.
Oxford University required students seeking admission to submit to the 39 articles of the Church of England. Cambridge required that for a diploma. The two ancient universities opposed giving a charter to the new London University in the 1830s because it had no such restriction. London University, nevertheless, was established in 1837, and by the 1850s Oxford dropped its restrictions. In 1871 Gladstone sponsored legislation that provided full access to degrees and fellowships. The Scottish universities never had restrictions. Nonconformists (especially Unitarians and Presbyterians) played major roles in founding new universities in the late 19th century at Manchester, as well as Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds.
- See also: Victorian literature, Victorian architecture, Victorian decorative arts, and Victorian fashion
Gothic Revival architecture became increasingly significant during the period, leading to the Battle of the Styles between Gothic and Classical ideals. Charles Barry's architecture for the new Palace of Westminster, which had been badly damaged in an 1834 fire, was built in the medieval style of Westminster Hall, the surviving part of the building. It constructed a narrative of cultural continuity, set in opposition to the violent disjunctions of Revolutionary France, a comparison common to the period, as expressed in Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution: A History and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. Gothic was also supported by critic John Ruskin, who argued that it epitomised communal and inclusive social values, as opposed to Classicism, which he considered to epitomise mechanical standardisation.
The middle of the 19th century saw The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World's Fair, which showcased the greatest innovations of the century. At its centre was the Crystal Palace, a modular glass and iron structure – the first of its kind. It was condemned by Ruskin as the very model of mechanical dehumanisation in design but later came to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography, showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art with Queen Victoria being the first British monarch to be photographed. John Everett Millais was influenced by photography (notably in his portrait of Ruskin) as were other Pre-Raphaelite artists. It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl.
The long-term effect of the reform movements was to tightly link the nonconformist element with the Liberal party. The dissenters gave significant support to moralistic issues, such as temperance and sabbath enforcement. The nonconformist conscience, as it was called, was repeatedly called upon by Gladstone for support for his moralistic foreign policy. In election after election, Protestant ministers rallied their congregations to the Liberal ticket. In Scotland, the Presbyterians played a similar role to the Nonconformist Methodists, Baptists and other groups in England and Wales The political strength of Dissent faded sharply after 1920 with the secularization of British society in the 20th century.
Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle class home and lifestyle. Previously, in town and city, residential space was adjacent to or incorporated into the work site, virtually occupying the same geographical space. The difference between private life and commerce was a fluid one distinguished by an informal demarcation of function. In the Victorian era, English family life increasingly became compartmentalised, the home a self-contained structure housing a nuclear family extended according to need and circumstance to include blood relations. The concept of "privacy" became a hallmark of the middle-class life. "... The English home closed up and darkened over the decade (1850s), the cult of domesticity matched by a cult of privacy." Bourgeois existence was a world of interior space, heavily curtained off and wary of intrusion, and opened only by invitation for viewing on occasions such as parties or teas. "The essential, unknowability of each individual, and society's collaboration in the maintenance of a façade behind which lurked innumerable mysteries, were the themes which preoccupied many mid-century novelists."
There were four major factors that radically transformed newspapers in 19th century Britain. First, by the 1830s the government had ended very high taxes and lifted severe legal restraints. Second, new machines, especially the rotary press, allowed the printing of tens of thousands of copies a day at a low cost. Third, the newspapers reached out to new readers in multiple ways, including features, illustrations, and advertisements that enlarged the audience. Finally, the franchise was expanded from one or two percent of the men to a majority, and newspapers became the primary means of political education.
In 1817 Thomas Barnes became general editor of The Times; he was a political radical, a sharp critic of parliamentary hypocrisy and a champion of freedom of the press. Under Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and in the financial district (the City of London). It spoke of reform. The Times originated the practice of sending war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell wrote immensely influential dispatches on the Crimean War of 1853-1856; for the first time, the public could read about the reality of warfare. Russell wrote one dispatch that highlighted the surgeons' "inhumane barbarity" and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. Shocked and outraged, the public reacted in a backlash that led to major reforms especially in the provision of nursing, led by Florence Nightingale.
The Manchester Guardian was founded in Manchester in 1821 by a group of non-conformist businessmen. Its most famous editor, Charles Prestwich Scott, made the Guardian into a world-famous newspaper in the 1890s. The Daily Telegraph in 1856 became the first penny newspaper in London. It was funded by advertising revenue based on a large audience.
Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban areas, the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the 1874 Factory Act limited the workweek to 56.5 hours, encouraging the movement toward an eventual eight-hour workday. Furthermore, a system of routine annual vacations came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class. Some 200 seaside resorts emerged thanks to cheap hotels and inexpensive railway fares, widespread banking holidays and the fading of many religious prohibitions against secular activities on Sundays.
By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all cities. It provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theater. By 1880 football was no longer the preserve of the social elite, as it attracted large working-class audiences. Average gate attendance was 5000 in 1905, rising to 23,000 in 1913. That amounted to 6 million paying customers with a weekly turnover of £400,000. Sports by 1900 generated some three percent of the total gross national product. Professional sports were the norm, although some new activities reached an upscale amateur audience, such as lawn tennis and golf. Women were now allowed in some sports, such as archery, tennis, badminton and gymnastics.
Technology and engineering
The Victorians were impressed by science and progress and felt that they could improve society in the same way as they were improving technology. Britain was the leading world center for advanced engineering and technology. Its engineering firms were in worldwide demand for designing and constructing railways.
A central development during the Victorian era was the improvement of communication. The new railways all allowed goods, raw materials, and people to be moved about, rapidly facilitating trade and industry. The financing of railways became an important specialty of London's financiers. Trains became an important factor ordering society, with "railway time" being the standard by which clocks were set throughout Britain, and with the complex railway system setting the standard for technological advances and efficiency. Steam ships such as the SS Great Britain and SS Great Western made international travel more common but also advanced trade, so that in Britain it was not just the luxury goods of earlier times that were imported into the country but essentials and raw materials such as corn and cotton from the United States and meat and wool from Australia. One more important innovation in communications was the Penny Black, the first postage stamp, which standardised postage to a flat price regardless of distance sent.
Even later communication methods such as electric power, telegraph, and telephones, had an impact. Photography was realised in 1839 by Louis Daguerre in France and William Fox Talbot in Britain. By 1889, hand-held cameras were available.
Similar sanitation reforms, prompted by the Public Health Acts 1848 and 1869, were made in the crowded, dirty streets of the existing cities, and soap was the main product shown in the relatively new phenomenon of advertising. A great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London. It was designed by Joseph Bazalgette in 1858. He proposed to build 82 mi (132 km) of sewer system linked with over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) of street sewers. Many problems were encountered but the sewers were completed. After this, Bazalgette designed the Thames Embankment which housed sewers, water pipes and the London Underground. During the same period, London's water supply network was expanded and improved, and a gas network for lighting and heating was introduced in the 1880s.
The model town of Saltaire was founded, along with others, as a planned environment with good sanitation and many civic, educational and recreational facilities, although it lacked a pub, which was regarded as a focus of dissent. During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history. This study of natural history was most powerfully advanced by Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution first published in his book On the Origin of Species in 1859.
Although initially developed in the early years of the 19th century, gas lighting became widespread during the Victorian era in industry, homes, public buildings and the streets. The invention of the incandescent gas mantle in the 1890s greatly improved light output and ensured its survival as late as the 1960s. Hundreds of gasworks were constructed in cities and towns across the country. In 1882, incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many years before they were installed everywhere.
19th century Britain saw a huge population increase accompanied by rapid urbanisation stimulated by the Industrial Revolution. Wage rates improved steadily; real wages (after taking inflation into account) were 65 percent higher in 1901, compared 1871. Much of the money was saved, as the number of depositors in savings banks rose from 430,000 in 1831, to 5.2 million in 1887, and their deposits from £14 million to over £90 million. People flooded into industrial areas and commercial cities faster than housing could be built, resulting in overcrowding And lagging sanitation facilities such as fresh water and sewage. These problems were magnified in London, where the population grew at record rates. Large houses were turned into flats and tenements, and as landlords failed to maintain these dwellings, slum housing developed. Kellow Chesney described the situation as follows: "Hideous slums, some of them acres wide, some no more than crannies of obscure misery, make up a substantial part of the metropolis... In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people of all ages may inhabit a single room." Significant changes happened in the British Poor Law system in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. These included a large expansion in workhouses (or poorhouses in Scotland), although with changing populations during the era.
- See also: Victorian morality and Women in the Victorian era
The Victorian era is famous for the Victorian standards of personal morality. Historians generally agree that the middle classes held high personal moral standards (and usually followed them), but have debated whether the working classes followed suit. Moralists in the late 19th century such as Henry Mayhew decried the slums for their supposed high levels of cohabitation without marriage and illegitimate births. However new research using computerized matching of data files shows that the rates of cohabitation were quite low—under 5%—for the working class and the poor. By contrast in 21st century Britain, nearly half of all children are born outside marriage, and nine in ten newlyweds have been cohabitating.
- Passage of the first Reform Act.
- Ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne.
- Treaty of Balta Liman (Great Britain trade alliance with the Ottoman Empire)
- First Opium War (1839–42) fought between Britain and China.
- Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield. He had been naturalised and granted the British style of Royal Highness beforehand. For the next 17 years, he was known as HRH Prince Albert.
- Birth of the Queen's first child The Princess Victoria. Within months she was granted the title Princess Royal.
- New Zealand becomes a British colony, through the Treaty of Waitangi. No longer part of New South Wales
- Birth of the Queen's heir-apparent The Prince Albert Edward, Duke of Cornwall (Duke of Rothesay). He was swiftly made Prince of Wales. Sir James Brooke founds the White Rajah dynasty of Sarawak.
- Treaty of Nanking. The Massacre of Elphinstone's Army by the Afghans in Afghanistan results in the death or incarceration of 16,500 soldiers and civilians. The Mines Act of 1842 banned women/children from working in coal, iron, lead and tin mining. The Illustrated London News was first published.
- Birth of The Princess Alice
- Birth of The Prince Alfred
- The Irish famine begins. Within 5 years it would become the UK's worst human disaster, with starvation and emigration reducing the population of Ireland itself by over 50%. The famine permanently changed Ireland's and Scotland's demographics and became a rallying point for nationalist sentiment that pervaded British politics for much of the following century.
- Repeal of the Corn Laws.
- Birth of The Princess Helena
- Death of around 2,000 people a week in a cholera epidemic.
- Birth of The Princess Louise
- Restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales. (Scotland did not follow until 1858.)
- Birth of The Prince Arthur
- The Great Exhibition (the first World's Fair) is held at the Crystal Palace, with great success and international attention. The Victorian gold rush. In ten years the Australian population nearly tripled.
- Birth of The Prince Leopold
- Crimean War: The United Kingdom declares war on Russia.
- The Indian Mutiny, a widespread revolt in India against the rule of the British East India Company, is sparked by sepoys (native Indian soldiers) in the Company's army. The rebellion, involving not just sepoys but many sectors of the Indian population as well, is largely quashed within a year. In response to the mutiny, the East India Company is abolished in August 1858 and India comes under the direct rule of the British crown, beginning the period of the British Raj. Prince Albert is given the title The Prince Consort
- Birth of The Princess Beatrice
- The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, responds to the Orsini plot against French emperor Napoleon III, the bombs for which were purchased in Birmingham, by attempting to make such acts a felony; the resulting uproar forces him to resign.
- Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, which leads to various reactions. Victoria and Albert's first grandchild, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, is born — he later became William II, German Emperor. John Stuart Mill publishes On Liberty, a defence of the famous harm principle.
- Death of Prince Albert; Queen Victoria refuses to go out in public for many years, and when she did she wore a widow's bonnet instead of the crown.
- The Prince of Wales marries Princess Alexandra of Denmark at Windsor.
- Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is published.
- An angry crowd in London, protesting against John Russell's resignation as Prime Minister, is barred from Hyde Park by the police; they tear down iron railings and trample on flower beds. Disturbances like this convince Derby and Disraeli of the need for further parliamentary reform.
- The Constitution Act, 1867 passes and British North America becomes Dominion of Canada.
- Britain purchased Egypt's shares in the Suez Canal as the African nation was forced to raise money to pay off its debts.
- Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
- The Princess Alice becomes Grand Duchess of Hesse when her husband succeeds as Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse
- Treaty of Berlin (1878). Cyprus becomes a Crown colony. The Princess Alice dies. Princess Louise's husband The Marquis of Lorne is appointed Governor-General of Canada. First incandescent light bulb by Joseph Wilson Swan.
- The Battle of Isandlwana is the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War. Victoria and Albert's first great-grandchild, Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, is born.
- The British suffer defeat at the Battle of Majuba Hill, leading to the signing of a peace treaty and later the Pretoria Convention, between the British and the reinstated South African Republic, ending the First Boer War. Sometimes claimed to mark the beginning of the decline of the British Empire.
- British troops begin the occupation of Egypt by taking the Suez Canal, to secure the vital trade route and passage to India, and the country becomes a protectorate.
- Princess Louise and Lord Lorne return from Canada
- The Fabian Society is founded in London by a group of middle class intellectuals, including Quaker Edward R. Pease, Havelock Ellis, and E. Nesbit, to promote socialism. Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany dies.
- Blackpool Electric Tramway Company starts the first electric tram service in the United Kingdom.
- Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and the Liberal Party tries passing the First Irish Home Rule Bill, but the House of Commons rejects it.
- Victoria's eldest daughter, the Princess Royal, becomes German Empress when her husband succeeds as Frederick III, German Emperor. Within months, Frederick dies, and their son becomes William II, German Emperor. The widowed Vicky becomes the Dowager Empress as is known as "Empress Frederick".
- Emily Williamson founds the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
- 1870 – 1891
- Under the Elementary Education Act 1870, basic State Education becomes free for every child under the age of 10.
- Victoria and Albert's last grandchild, Prince Maurice of Battenberg, is born.
- The Prince of Wales' eldest son Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence dies of influenza.
- The Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh succeeds as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when his uncle dies. The Duchy skips over The Prince of Wales due to his renunciation of his succession rights to that Duchy.
- British and Egyptian troops led by Horatio Kitchener defeat the Mahdist forces at the battle of Omdurman, thus establishing British dominance in the Sudan. Winston Churchill takes part in the British cavalry charge at Omdurman.
- The Second Boer War is fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics. The Boers finally surrendered and the British annexed the Boer republics.
- Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha dies. His nephew Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany succeeds him, because his brother Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and nephew Prince Arthur of Connaught had renounced their rights.
- The death of Victoria sees the end of this era. The ascension of her eldest son, Edward, begins the Edwardian era; albeit considerably shorter, this was another time of great change.
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