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Britain in the XIX century

XIX century

1) Social and political development

In XIX century Britain became the first industrial power of the world. Its foreign trade exceeded 3 times the trade of the USA. In 1851 in London the 1 World industrial exhibition was spent. Many countries of Europe and America presented their machines and other products. The majority of the first places were received by the English products.

English colonies grew and brought stable incomes. British Empire covered ¼ of the world land. The standard of living was higher in England than anywhere in the world. At the same time the social contrasts were also felt stronger, than anywhere else. So the intensive working-class movement developed in England. It got the name of «Chartism».

  1. the end of a century England began to lose the priority positions in economic, it was overtaken by Germany and the USA. Partly the slow-down of British development was connected with a habit to live due to colonies.

After a victory over Napoleon England did not participate in big wars. The XIX century made the British history as an epoch of peace. The only serious war happened in the end of a century

What was it? – Boer war in Southern Africa with Dutch farmers. During XIX it was thought that having navy twice as much as of the rest of Europe would be enough for British security. But by the end of a century with the appearance of aircraft the Englishmen weren’t so sure about the security of their islands.

Still in historical memory of the Englishmen the XIX century has remained an epoch of peace and well-being. This period associated with the name of queen Victoria. The bigger part of the XIX century is known as the Victorian epoch. She remained a queen for 64 years, from 1837 till 1901. It’s necessary to tell several words about the woman, who gave her name to the whole epoch. She inherited the throne at 18. When the queen was 20 the successor of Russian throne came to visit England. He was future emperor Alexander II. He was 19 then. Young people loved each other, but the Russian emperor Nicolas I forbade his son to marry English queen. In the case of marriage Alexander could not become Russian tsar.

The contemporaries told Victoria to be an ordinary woman. But she had a strong desire to play her role of monarch, and play it well. Victoria wrote in her childish diary: «I wish to be good». She tried to follow this motto.

  1. became the symbol of English monarchy not only because of her long ruling. She could solve a difficult problem. To her period laws were accepted by parliament, current affairs were managed by prime-ministers. There was a question: what the monarchy was necessary for? The monarchs should have answered this question or disappeared. She managed to answer.

Victoria was married to the German prince Albert. She loved the husband very much. He could influence Victoria in social and political sphere. For example, Victoria was afraid of using railways. Albert persuaded her traveling by train, and thousands of the Englishmen, who had been afraid of trains before, began traveling by train. It was Albert’s idea to organize the 1 World industrial exhibition, which showered the industrial domination of England. Victoria and Albert had 8 children, some of them and several grandsons of Victoria became monarchs and members of monarchical families in many countries of Europe. That’s why Victoria was named «the grandmother of Europe».

But when Albert was 42 he got ill and died. Victoria was in despair. She left to Scotland, where they had had happy days with Alfred and was staying there for 3 years. She didn’t appear at that period, people didn’t see her. The Englishmen used to speak: «Why do we need the absent queen»? That period's prime-minister Disraeli persuaded Victoria returning to public. She came back and thus rescued a monarchy. Victoria wrote some books about the years of with Albert. The first of them was titled «Our life in mountains» - about the travel across Scotland. For the first time the monarch appeared as a common person. Since that she played the role of the ordinary woman, devoted to her family. But she tried to demonstrate a right ordinary woman. The English liked the role. Since that the Royal family has become a kind of a model family. That’s why it’s accustomed to criticize Royal family, telling that it doesn’t coincide the ideal.

So Victoria could find the new role for monarch: not to interfere policy and to show a moral example.

2) World outlook and life-style

2 features are seen in the English life of the XIX century: self-help and pluralism. They are typical for the English life generally, not only for the XIX

(2) "Self-help"

One of favourite words with the Englishmen - «self-help». English life and language give a lot of examples illustrating their favourite idea.

Recollect, how is in English угощайтесь»? - help yourself

English life also gives the examples of self-help. In XIX one of them was the movement of Chartism. It was the first working class movement in the world. The word occurs from «charter» (грамота). It was the document with the demands of the working people to parliament. It was called “People's charter». The life of industrial workers remained heavy. After the industrial crises all unemployment had to join workhouses, at that time also in cities. Their inhabitants were like prisoners: no rights and always hungry. The parliament didn’t make any steps to improve the conditions of workers’ life. The majority of people could not influence parliament because they couldn’t participate in parliamentary elections. The Chartist movement appeared with the idea of general elections. The slogan of the movement was: «Let people enter the parliament and they will take care of themselves». 5 times the active participants of movement collected signatures and tried to hand them over to parliament. Millions of people signed and thousands met in the streets of London, Manchester and other big cities to support “The Charter”. The parliament did not accept the “Charter”. To the middle of the century the movement descended. But it can’t be said that it failed. Step by step their demands were fulfilled. By the beginning of the XX – 5 of 6[1]. During the movement the first working party in the Europe was formed. Now it is called Labour party. Its other name - the party of self-help. It is one of three main parties of the country. Two others - conservatives and liberals, or - Tory (Conservative) and Whigs (Liberal).

English elementary education also has a self-help history. Till 1870 government did not care about elementary education. Nevertheless it developed. Partly thanks to the system which has received the names of its developers: Bell – Lancastrian . The idea came from India. Andrew Bell from Scotland was a director of colonial school in the Indian city of Madras. It was the home for children whose fathers were the English soldiers and mothers – the Indians. Often such children were rejected by Indian communities. Growing up, and becoming teenagers they used to terrorize local residents and the workers of school. There were few teachers at school and they could do nothing with young robbers. Bell paid attention to the system of training at the Indian monasteries. This system had existed for centuries. It was the system of mutual training.

Bell organized his school according to this example. Adult teachers gave a lesson to several boys. The boys also got an instruction how to teach other boys. Then they taught their friends. When the system began working the pupils of the school were busy with studying, and they stopped terrorizing the district. Bell wrote articles about the success of his system. His ideas were developed in England by the teacher Joseph Lancaster. Many schools were organized first in England, then in the USA, Canada and France. Pupils taught pupils there. Disadvantage was that only very primitive things could have been taught, such as reading, writing and counting. But the advantage was the spread of literacy in the period when teaches were few and state schools were absent. It was an example of self-help.

(3) Pluralism

Pluralism means variety of opinions. On visiting England Voltaire wrote: «The Englishmen have hundred religions and only one sauce». Voltaire was irritated with the poverty of English cuisine, but at the same time he paid attention to a variety of opinions. Many foreign authors noted tolerance and respect for another's opinion as the distinctive English features. There is a curious book by journalist Vsevolod Ovchinnikov «The Roots of the oak». Ovchinnikov tries to describe the basic features of English character. The book was written in the end of 1970, but, it is still seems entertaining. I would recommend the book to you.

Different foreign authors tell the Englishmen always thing that there may be another opinion, that’s why they try to avoid categorical statements. The Englishmen try to express the opinion softly. He will not tell, that he has read an interesting book. He will say something like «probably, the author is not deprived of talent».


  1. try to start their statements with «it seems to me» or “may be I am mistaken, but». Moreover, he will hesitate as in the start of the phrase, as in the end. For eхample:

«I think, the weather is fine today, isn’t it?”

3) Science and technics

The most fundamental results in the British science of XIX were in biology and in the theory of electricity.

The first result was achieved by Charles Darwin. His book was called "On the Origin of Species" and it has come one of the most discussed scientific books in history. A century and a half passed. Nevertheless still there are the supporters and the opponents of his theory. I don’t know any other book that has caused so long discussion.

It’s important to use the terms correctly. In the XIX a term "Darwinism" appeared. Now scientists prefer speaking not about "Darwinism", but about the «synthetic theory of evolution». Darwin’s theory is considered to be only one step in the development of evolution theory. Nevertheless the name of Darwin became one of the symbols of the English science. In BBC poll the Englishmen recognized Darwin as the fourth greatest Briton[2].

The problem, researched by Darwin concerned the striking variety of living nature.

How many species of plants exist? – 500 000

How many species of animals exist? – 2 000 000

How many biological species exist altogether? – 5-30 million

(Appraisals differ, because some species are supposed not to have been discovered yet)

How could it all appear? What were the reasons?

By the XIX century there were 2 main theories. The first one was creationism. This theory proved, that the diversity was created by God. The other theory was called «transformism». It proved that all the living beings, plants and animals developed and changed their forms. Among the supporters of this version was the grandfather of Charles Darwin, the doctor and poet Erasm Darwin. Till XIX century nobody of transformists could explain, what was the reason of changing. Why any plants and animals changed their forms. He was Charles Darwin who proposed an explanation. The first attempt of explanation had been undertaken by the French scientist Lamarque 50 years before Darwin. But the book by Lamarque wasn’t noticed. The fate of Darwin’s book was another.

Darwin (1809-1882) was born in a small town of Shrewsbury in Scotland in the family of a doctor. He was not interested in the main school subjects, Latin and Greek, he was fond of collecting of butterflies and bugs. His father wrote in one of his letters: "Charles does not think of anything except hunting, dogs and catching of rats. He covers with shame all the Darwins". After school Charles studied for priest at the Edinburgh university. Still he wasn’t interested in his studying and went on collecting bugs, butterflies and plants. On graduating from the university he participated as the naturalist in the expedition of the ship «Beagle» to South America. During 5 years of expedition Darwin got his greatest impression on Galapagos islands. Now these islands are called «a show-window of evolution». These extremely small islands have enormous diversity of species.

Категория: Лекции по истории Англии | Добавил: Senebty (10.02.2018)
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