19th Century British History

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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19th Century British History Resources

Gale provides scholarly resources, including databases, primary source archives, and eBooks, to advance researchers’ studies in 19th century English history.


Gale databases offer researchers access to 19th century British history content in databases, including sources covering many history topics from articles, documents, and more, aligned with lesson plans for teaching and guides for additional research.

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.

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of eBooks covering a wide range of 19th century British history topics, including the British Empire, the Victorian world, British military history, modern Britain, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download articles.

  • The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1st Edition

    The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1st Edition

    ABC-CLIO  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781440841989

    From early sixteenth century explorations to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, the British Empire controlled outposts on every continent, spreading its people and ideas across the globe and profiting mightily in the process. The present state of our world—from its increasing interconnectedness to its vast inequalities and from the successful democracies of North America to the troubled regimes of Africa and the Middle East—can be traced, in large part, to the way in which Great Britain expanded and controlled its empire. This book addresses a broader range of topics than most other surveys of the empire, covering not only major political and military developments but also topics that have only recently come to serious scholarly attention, such as women’s and gender history, art and architecture, indigenous histories and perspectives, and the construction of colonial knowledge and ideologies. By going beyond the headline events of the British Empire, this captivating work communicates the British imperial experience in its totality. 

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  • The Victorian World: Facts and Fictions, 1st Edition

    The Victorian World: Facts and Fictions, 1st Edition

    ABC-CLIO  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781440855917

    While the Victorian era captivates many today, much of what people believe about the Victorian world is false. This book looks at nine specific myths about Victorian Britain, explaining how the myths perpetuated and showing why they’re inaccurate. Coverage spans 1830‒1914, from shortly before Queen Victoria’s reign to World War I. The book is organized in three sections, beginning with social issues, then cultural ones, and ending with politics and war. The social section pulls in the reader by discussing the most common myths about the Victorians—their sexual prudery, strict gender roles, and infamous views of the family—while offering counterpoints to the myths. The cultural section moves into humor, criminal justice issues, and race, and the political section caps the book with discussions of the Industrial Revolution, foreign affairs, and war. Included are a large number of primary source documents showing how the misconceptions became popular, along with evidence for what scholars now believe to be the truths behind the myths.

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  • The Victorian World: A Historical Exploration of Literature, 1st Edition

    The Victorian World: A Historical Exploration of Literature, 1st Edition

    Greenwood Publishing Group  |  2019  |  ISBN-13: 9781440860447

    The Victorian era was a time of great social, scientific, and cultural change. The literary works of the period reflect that change and help us better understand the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria. This book examines the historical, political, social, and cultural contexts of several important Victorian literary works. The volume also provides historical explanations, literary analyses, and cultural context for each literary work, including primary documents from the nineteenth century. Topics investigated include women’s rights; workers’ rights; education reforms; marriage laws; race relations; inheritance and heredity; and other issues concerning gender, race, and class in the nineteenth century. Readers will gain a greater understanding of these major literary works as well as their historical context.

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  • Viewpoints on Modern World History: Brexit, 1st Edition

    Viewpoints on Modern World History: Brexit, 1st Edition

    Greenhaven Publishing  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781534501423

    In June 2016, Great Britain shocked the modern world, and itself, by voting in favor of pulling out of the European Union (EU). Far from settling a long, simmering, and increasingly contentious debate within the UK and Europe, the aftermath of the Brexit vote sowed only more confusion, uncertainty, and angry debate about the economic, political, and even moral consequences of turning away from Europe and adopting a more protectionist, nationalist stance. That there was no clear plan for moving ahead with an EU exit in the wake of the vote only stoked greater anger and outrage. The debate and arguments rage on and are fully represented in this comprehensive volume, as the future of the UK and Europe hang in the balance.

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