Primary Source Archives
Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and digitized literature that provide researchers with firsthand articles from 19th century literature in England and primary sources to drive research at your university.
Examine the events and developments that occurred during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom (UK), the grouping of islands off the west coast of Europe that includes England, Wales, Scotland, and part of Ireland. This century was a time of tremendous growth, prosperity, and change for the British Empire, which reached the height of its military power and political influence by the end of this period.
Events associated with the Napoleonic Wars and related conflicts—including nearly three years of war with the United States—dominated British history during the opening decades of the century, while social issues became a central focus by the 1830s. The Reform Act of 1832 was part of a series of nineteenth century reforms bringing changes to representation in Parliament and increasing the size of the British electorate. Further reforms addressed such issues as public sanitation, factory working conditions, and child labor.
Queen Victoria began her lengthy reign in 1837, remaining on the throne until her death in 1901. For this reason, the study of British history during the 1800s inevitably centers on the period known as the Victorian era, a time of rapid industrialization, urbanization, economic growth, and geographic expansion. England’s democratic reforms aided in avoiding the revolutionary turmoil that swept the European continent in the mid-nineteenth century, fostering a notable optimism sustained in later decades by Britain’s industrial supremacy, the might of the British Army, and its advancing standard of living. By the closing decades of the nineteenth century, Britain had greatly expanded its colonial holdings, especially in Africa.
Exploring nineteenth century British history will also reveal an age of scientific discovery and speculation, notable artistic achievement, religious dissent, and loss of faith. Divisions within the Church of England and changing views of morality and social responsibility were chronicled in the novels of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. In 1859, Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking study, On the Origin of Species.
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