British Empire

The Victorian age

During the 19th century Britain was transformed by the industrial revolution. There were great changes in social structure. Most people now lived in towns and cities. They no longer depended on country landowners for their living but rather on the owners of industries. These owners and the growing middle class of professionals and tradesmen held the real power in the country. Along with their power went a set of values which emphasized hard work, thrift, religious observance, the family, an awareness of oneĀ“s duty, absolute honesty in public life, and extreme respectability in sexual matters. This is the set of values which are now called Victorian.

Industrialisation brought with it new markets, a consumer boom and greater prosperity for most of the propertied classes. It also brought rapid, and sometimes chaotic change as towns and cities expanded at a pace which precluded orderly growth. Desperately poor housing conditions, long working hours, the ravages of infectious disease and premature death were the inevitable consequence.

During the Victorian age, Britain was the world's most powerful nation. In 1882 Britain was in the later stages of acquiring the largest empire the world had ever seen. By the end of Victoria's reign, the British empire extended over about one-fifth of the earth's surface and almost a quarter of the world's population at least theoretically owed allegiance to the 'queen empress'. In 1877 she became empress of Ind ia. Her empire included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and large parts of Africa.