Lesson 1: Great Britain during the early Victorian period
- Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
- Review of the previous material (5-7 minutes)
- New studies (15-20 minutes)
4) Practical training (15 minutes)
5) Homework (1-2 minutes)
Part 3 can be started with the quick reading and translation of the short text about the accession of Queen Victoria. The example of the text is following:
“In 1837 William IV died and a new reign began. As he had no children the crown went to Victoria, the eighteen-years-old only daughter of his next young brother, the duke of Kent. Her reign was destined to be the longest in English history, grave questions were impending, parties were much embittered against one another, and difficult descisions would have to be made from the beginning to the end of the reign. At this time she was entirely unknown to her people, as she had been brought up in much seclusion; but her education and training had been good and her subjects soon learned to recognize her clear judgement, her moderation, her perception of the true position of the sovereign in the English system of government, and the thorough goodness of her character.
In 1840 she married her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who came to live in England but was given no recognized position in the government. In private he was, on the whole, a wise and impartial adviser of his wife, and his influence with her and with others was thoroughly good for England. By his refined tastes and intellectual interests he gave encouragement to the arts and to literature at a time when they received but scant recognition, and many public measures of usefulness received his steady and intelligent support.”
Various aspects of the British life during the early Victorian period and the so-called “Mid-Victorian Prosperity” can be studied during an audition exercises. For example, pupils should be allowed to listen to the following text, pronounced by a native speaker, and then requested to make a summary of the text and to talk about it (both solely and in form of dialogs):
“Between 1845 and 1866 the United Kingdom experienced the unparalleled expansion of manufacturers and commerce. No doubts, that phenomenon took place due, to a great extent, to the removal of protective duties on food and raw materials, but not entirely. Other important changes took place simultaneously and helped it on. The above years comprise the discovery and working of the Californian and Australian goldfields which increased so immensely the circulating medium of the world. The final victory of steam-powered means of transportation in Britain occured, with railroads taking the first place on land and steam vessels doing so on the ocean. In general, transportation became four times quicker and four times cheaper.
In 1838 the “Anti-Corn-Law League” was formed at Manchester in the center of the manufacturing district, and an active movement was instituted to induce parliament to remove the taxes from grain (imposed by the so-called “Corn Law” of 1815, which was the direct result of Napoleonic Wars). Richard Cobden and John Bright rose to fame in connection with the work of the league. They were both merchants, both gifted with great ability as speakers; both were strongly convinced in the injustice of the corn laws, and believed that benefit would come to English workingmen if their food could be made cheap. With these men and others as leaders, newspapers devoted to the subject were showered over the country, lecturers were trained and sent into every town to explain the principles of what had long been called “free trade”. “To buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest” was laid down as a general right and a general principle of action, and a condition of the law under which this could be done was treated as the ideal to which legislation should approach.
A great part of the people were gradually converted to these principles and to the belief that the old system of duties ought to be abolished. But not so much impression was made on parliament. Every year some advocate would introduce a measure for the repeal of the duties, but it was always voted down by a majority that it seemed impossible to overcome. Eventually Cobden and Bright became members of parliament and pleaded for their views there, others took up the cause, one by one prominent members of the Liberal party and even some of the Conservatives accepted their principles, and it began to seem that at some time or other the Corn Law would be abolished.
In 1846 Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative prime minister, introduced and against much opposition carried through a measure for the abolition of the duties on wheat and other grain. This action allowed the principal food of the people to be brought into England, Ireland, and Scotland far more cheaply than before, reduced the price of the grain that was grown at home, and made bread cheap for the working classes.
With the Corn Laws gone the principles of free trade were introduced, and many forms of protection were removed. The high duties on sugar imposed for the benefit of the sugar-growing British West Indies were reduced the same year that the corn laws were swept away. The Navigation Acts which had come down from the seventeenth century as a means of preserving English commerce to English ships were abolished in 1849, the vessels of all other nations being now allowed to come into and go out of English ports on the same conditions as vessels owned in England. Within a few years, between 1846 and 1849, protective duties were removed from some two hundred articles which had before been taxed. England thus gave up entirely her old policy of protection and established free trade in all articles of import and export. Only a few small import duties were afterwards collected for purposes of revenue. After that time England was for more than a half century a free-trade country.
The effects of the Corn Law cancellation upon agriculture were really tremendous. The mere threat of foreign competition led to a number of significant improvements in technique. As compensation for the loss of the Corn Law the landowners in Parliament advanced themselves financial support for improvements at a remarkably low rate of interest, thus enabling themselves to add the value of their land and make a handsome profit out of the farmers who were charged for the improvements at a considerably higher rates.
Land drainage became widely available on a large scale in 1845, with the invention of a pipe-making machines. This event added greatly to the productivity of the heavy wheatgrowing lands, made them more workable, and made the use of artificial manures profitable. Such substances as nitrates, guano and bone manure all came into common use at this time. Much new agricultural machinery also was introduced (the Royal Agricultural Societys Show of 1853 could be a perfect illustration with over 2000 implements).
A more direct stimulus to the use of machinery was given by the increase in the wages of the British farm workers which took place between 1845 and 1859 as the result of the great demand for labor in mines, in the construction of railways, and so on. This increase in the use of machinery led to a reduction in the number of laborers employed, although the area under cultivation had increased by half a million acres and the total agricultural production had increased far more in proportion.
The size of the British farms increased considerably due to the greater application of capital to agriculture. Between 1851 and 1871 farms of all sizes below 100 acres decreased in number while farms of 300 acres and over increased from 11000 to 13000, the greatest proportional increase being in those over 500 acres.
Development of the British industry under Queen Victoria reign had never experienced a burst of increased effectiveness as the agriculture did. Still, it introduced some important innovations which should be mentioned.
In 1847 the Ten Hours Bill limited the hours of women and young people, and, in practice, secured a ten hour day for most of the men, since it proved unprofitable to keep the factories open for them alone. This result was not achieved for some years, however, during which the employers tried every conceivable and device short of flat defiance of the provision of the Act.
There was also a significant improvement in the educational field during Victorian years. In 1840 perhaps only twenty per cent of the children of London had any schooling, a number, which had risen by 1860, when perhaps half of the children between 5 and 15 years old were in some sort of school.
The Mid-Victorian period was prosperous primarily for the agricultural branch which became possible mainly due to the significant technological advances coupled with the cancellation of the Corn Law. It ended abruptly and a long depression in agriculture set in with the arrival of American wheat and Australian wool in bulk, starting from 1866. The improvement in the condition of the laborers ended much earlier when the rise in prices produced by the influx of Californian and Australian gold brought about a steady decline in real wages.”
Since the political life during the Victorian time was of especially great importance, it should be given a special attention. It would be useful to learn the political aspect of the early Victorian period by listening to the set of brief reports by pupils. Probable texts for reports are the following (they can be given