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Victorian Aberdeen

The Victorian era of British History 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 Britain. Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act of 1832.

The era was preceded by the Georgian Period and followed by the Edwardian Period. The latter half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the 1st portion of La Belle Epoque Era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the United States.

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 the arts.  The era is popularly associated with the values of social and sexual restraint.

In international relations the era was a long period of peace, known as the Pax Brittanica, 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 Gladstone and Disraeli, whose contrasting views changed the course of history. Disraeli, favoured by the Queen, was a gregarious Tory. Gladstone, his rival distrusted by the Queen, a Liberal, served more terms and oversaw much of the overall law-making of the era.

Scotland's population rose rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901. Ireland's population decreased rapidly, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901, mostly due to the Great Famine.  At the same time, around 15 million emigrants left the United Kingdom in the Victorian Era and settled mostly in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

During the early part of the era, the House of Commons was headed by the 2 parties, the Whigs and the Tories.  From the late 1850s onwards, the Whigs became the Liberals; the Tories became the Conservatives. These parties were led by many prominent statesmen including Lord Melbourne,  Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, William Ewart Gladstone, Benjamin 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. Indeed, these issues would eventually lead to the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent domino effect that would play a large part in the fall of the Empire.

The Victorians were the harbingers of the modern age, their society driven by curiosity, a zeal for invention, and an enormous appetite for economic and imperial consumption. The boiler room of the era was stoked furiously, and its frequent combustions produced advances in everything from science and philosophy to industry and architecture.

By the end of the 19th century, Scotland was a nation transformed. Glasgow had exploded into the second city of the Empire, the majestic Forth Bridge was celebrated as a wonder of the modern world, and railways had opened the remote Highlands to new industries of leisure and tourism. But for every grand museum or gothic-revival country house, tenements and slums rose in their thousands – overcrowded living for the vast army of workers that sustained the great Victorian machine. Ambition and wealth saw social divisions become ever more acute, producing a society obsessed with class hierarchy.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013