The Victorian era of the United Kingdom 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
prosperity for the British people. Some scholars extend the beginning of the
period as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political concerns that have
come to be associated with the Victorians, back five years to the passage of the
Reform Act 1832.
The era was preceded by the Georgian period and succeeded by the Edwardian
period. The latter half of the Victorian era roughly coincided with the first
portion of the Belle Epoque era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the
The era is often characterized as a long period of peace, known as the Pax
Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily
disrupted by the Crimean War, although Britain was at war every year during this
time. Towards the end of the 19th century, the policies of New Imperialism led
to increasing colonial conflicts and eventually the Anglo Zanzibar War and the
Boer War. Domestically, the agenda was increasingly liberal with a number of
shifts in the direction of gradual political reform and the widening of the
The population of England had almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5
million in 1901. Scotland's population also 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. 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 two
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.
Victoria reigned for 63 years and 216 days, the longest in British history up to
this point. However, the present monarch, Elizabeth II, will surpass this if she
remains on the throne through 9 September 2015.