The Victorian Era in Britain lasted from 1837, when Queen Victoria took the throne, until January of 1901, when she passed away. This era is one that Canadian high schools spend the most time on. It was one of the most crucial eras in British history as this was when the nation started to link together. The railroad made the country seem much less distant and with their added railroad tracks, made travel much easier. The population in the United Kingdom also began to grow significantly, almost doubling in size. The Middle class began to make a swift rise due to their industrial backgrounds. Cities began to grow, and the economy began to rise.
The Victorian Era is the most fascinating era in history because of all the political events that occurred and how far spread the British Empire was. North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia all had British presence. It was known as “the Empire in which the sun never sets” because of all the territory the British possessed. Politically, the British were not done though. They established sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840 and in 1842. The Treaty of Nanking ended the First Opium War being fought in China and effectively gave control of Honk Kong to Britain. In 1842, the same year Britain gained control of Hong Kong, they were forced to retreat from Afghanistan due to the mass destruction of the British Army. In October of 1856, Britain engaged in another war with China, sparking the Second Opium War, which resulted in another British victory over the much weaker Qing Dynasty. South of China, one year later in 1857, the Sepoy mutiny took place in which the sepoys began to rise up against the British East India Company. The British suppressed the movement in 1858, but transferred all power to the British crown, Queen Victoria. In 1867, the most important year for me, the British North America Act (The Constitution Act) was passed in the British Parliament, effectively creating Canada as a self-governing nation. This Act is still a major part of Canada’s Constitution today. The Victorian Era, in regard to history, was the “Golden Age” for Britain as they began to develop their country, their economy grew, and industrialization began to skyrocket.
With regards to English literature, novels began to come into play in the Victorian era with Charles Dickens being one of the major leaders in the movement. All throughout high school, this was our “go to” author. We were required to read A Christmas carol in grade nine, Oliver twist in grade ten, and The Great Expedition in grade eleven. In grade twelve, we had an option to choose, and naturally I steered well clear of Charles Dickens. The Victorian style of literature began to spread around the globe as well, influencing many great writers and poets. It spread rapidly influencing great writers like, Henry David Thoreau, Grant Allan, and Susanna Moodie. The British Empire all around began to thrive and therefore the Victorian Era is my favourite to study.