Lesson 1: Great Britain during the early Victorian period
1) Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
2) Review of the previous material (5-7 minutes)
3) New studies (15-20 minutes)
4) Practical training (15 minutes)
5) Homework (1-2 minutes)
Part 3 can be started with the quick reading and translation of the short text about the accession of Queen Victoria. The example of the text is following:
“In 1837 William IV died and a new reign began. As he had no children the crown went to Victoria, the eighteen-years-old only daughter of his next young brother, the duke of Kent. Her reign was destined to be the longest in English history, grave questions were impending, parties were much embittered against one another, and difficult descisions would have to be made from the beginning to the end of the reign. At this time she was entirely unknown to her people, as she had been brought up in much seclusion; but her education and training had been good and her subjects soon learned to recognize her clear judgement, her moderation, her perception of the true position of the sovereign in the English system of government, and the thorough goodness of her character.
In 1840 she married her cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who came to live in England but was given no recognized position in the government. In private he was, on the whole, a wise and impartial adviser of his wife, and his influence with her and with others was thoroughly good for England. By his refined tastes and intellectual interests he gave encouragement to the arts and to literature at a time when they received but scant recognition, and many public measures of usefulness received his steady and intelligent support.”
Various aspects of the British life during the early Victorian period and the so-called “Mid-Victorian Prosperity” can be studied during an audition exercises. For example, pupils should be allowed to listen to the following text, pronounced by a native speaker, and then requested to make a summary of the text and to talk about it (both solely and in form of dialogs):
Between 1845 and 1866 the United Kingdom experienced the unparalleled expansion of manufacturers and commerce. No doubts, that phenomenon took place due, to a great extent, to the removal of protective duties on food and raw materials, but not entirely. Other important changes took place simultaneously and helped it on. The above years comprise the discovery and working of the Californian and Australian goldfields which increased so immensely the circulating medium of the world. The final victory of steam-powered means of transportation in Britain occured, with railroads taking the first place on land and steam vessels doing so on the ocean. In general, transportation became four times quicker and four times cheaper.
In 1838 the “Anti-Corn-Law League” was formed at Manchester in the center of the manufacturing district, and an active movement was instituted to induce parliament to remove the taxes from grain (imposed by the so-called “Corn Law” of 1815, which was the direct result of Napoleonic Wars). Richard Cobden and John Bright rose to fame in connection with the work of the league. They were both merchants, both gifted with great ability as speakers; both were strongly convinced in the injustice of the corn laws, and believed that benefit would come to English workingmen if their food could be made cheap. With these men and others as leaders, newspapers devoted to the subject were showered over the country, lecturers were trained and sent into every town to explain the principles of what had long been called “free trade”. “To buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest” was laid down as a general right and a general principle of action, and a condition of the law under which this could be done was treated as the ideal to which legislation should approach.
A great part of the people were gradually converted to these principles and to the belief that the old system of duties ought to be abolished. But not so much impression was made on parliament. Every year some advocate would introduce a measure for the repeal of the duties, but it was always voted down by a majority that it seemed impossible to overcome. Eventually Cobden and Bright became members of parliament and pleaded for their views there, others took up the cause, one by one prominent members of the Liberal party and even some of the Conservatives accepted their principles, and it began to seem that at some time or other the Corn Law would be abolished.
In 1846 Sir Robert Peel, the Conservative prime minister, introduced and against much opposition carried through a measure for the abolition of the duties on wheat and other grain. This action allowed the principal food of the people to be brought into England, Ireland, and Scotland far more cheaply than before, reduced the price of the grain that was grown at home, and made bread cheap for the working classes.
With the Corn Laws gone the principles of free trade were introduced, and many forms of protection were removed. The high duties on sugar imposed for the benefit of the sugar-growing British West Indies were reduced the same year that the corn laws were swept away. The Navigation Acts which had come down from the seventeenth century as a means of preserving English commerce to English ships were abolished in 1849, the vessels of all other nations being now allowed to come into and go out of English ports on the same conditions as vessels owned in England. Within a few years, between 1846 and 1849, protective duties were removed from some two hundred articles which had before been taxed. England thus gave up entirely her old policy of protection and established free trade in all articles of import and export. Only a few small import duties were afterwards collected for purposes of revenue. After that time England was for more than a half century a free-trade country.
The effects of the Corn Law cancellation upon agriculture were really tremendous. The mere threat of foreign competition led to a number of significant improvements in technique. As compensation for the loss of the Corn Law the landowners in Parliament advanced themselves financial support for improvements at a remarkably low rate of interest, thus enabling themselves to add the value of their land and make a handsome profit out of the farmers who were charged for the improvements at a considerably higher rates.
Land drainage became widely available on a large scale in 1845, with the invention of a pipe-making machines. This event added greatly to the productivity of the heavy wheatgrowing lands, made them more workable, and made the use of artificial manures profitable. Such substances as nitrates, guano and bone manure all came into common use at this time. Much new agricultural machinery also was introduced (the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show of 1853 could be a perfect illustration with over 2000 implements).
A more direct stimulus to the use of machinery was given by the increase in the wages of the British farm workers which took place between 1845 and 1859 as the result of the great demand for labor in mines, in the construction of railways, and so on. This increase in the use of machinery led to a reduction in the number of laborers employed, although the area under cultivation had increased by half a million acres and the total agricultural production had increased far more in proportion.
The size of the British farms increased considerably due to the greater application of capital to agriculture. Between 1851 and 1871 farms of all sizes below 100 acres decreased in number while farms of 300 acres and over increased from 11000 to 13000, the greatest proportional increase being in those over 500 acres.
Development of the British industry under Queen Victoria reign had never experienced a burst of increased effectiveness as the agriculture did. Still, it introduced some important innovations which should be mentioned.
In 1847 the Ten Hours’ Bill limited the hours of women and young people, and, in practice, secured a ten hour day for most of the men, since it proved unprofitable to keep the factories open for them alone. This result was not achieved for some years, however, during which the employers tried every conceivable and device short of flat defiance of the provision of the Act.
There was also a significant improvement in the educational field during Victorian years. In 1840 perhaps only twenty per cent of the children of London had any schooling, a number, which had risen by 1860, when perhaps half of the children between 5 and 15 years old were in some sort of school.
The Mid-Victorian period was prosperous primarily for the agricultural branch which became possible mainly due to the significant technological advances coupled with the cancellation of the Corn Law. It ended abruptly and a long depression in agriculture set in with the arrival of American wheat and Australian wool in bulk, starting from 1866. The improvement in the condition of the laborers ended much earlier when the rise in prices produced by the influx of Californian and Australian gold brought about a steady decline in real wages.”
Since the political life during the Victorian time was of especially great importance, it should be given a special attention. It would be useful to learn the political aspect of the early Victorian period by listening to the set of brief reports by pupils. Probable texts for reports are the following (they can be given by teacher to the pupils prior to the lesson for homework):
“The Parliament in the early Victorian period: Liberals and Conservatives
The Whigs and those who acted with them gradually gave up the old party name and began to call themselves “Liberals”. This name soon came to be the only one used and was regularly applied to the party of which Earl Grey, Lord Russell, Lord Brougham, and Lord Melbourne were the leaders. The name “Whig” went out of existence. The Tories came to be known as “Conservatives”. The party name “Tory” went out of use except as it was used to describe a man who was extremely and narrow-mindedly conservative. The most influential representatives of the Conservative party were the duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. The latter especially was the real organizer and leader of the conservatives after the adoption of the Reform Bill. He was prime minister for five important years, from 1841 to 1846. Yet in the main the Liberals kept control of the government till after the middle of the century, when they gradually became tired of a reforming policy. Their sense of responsibility in that direction had been satisfied and they believed that no further political changes should be made. They defeated measures for admitting Jews to parliament, for lowering the franchise, for introducing the ballot in voting, and for more frequent elections, and no further great reforms were to be put to their credit for many years.
The prime minister during 1855-1865 and the most prominent minister of England for many years, was Lord Palmerston. He was one of those men who had been originally moderate Tories, but who had afterwards drifted into the Liberal party during the agitation for the first Reform Bill. His service as minister in Tory cabinets had extended from 1809 to 1830; afterwards as foreign secretary and then as prime minister he was an influential member of almost every Liberal cabinet for thirty-five years. He always adopted a high tone in foreign affairs, and many of the foreign disputes into which England had been drawn were largely a consequence of his policy. He was usually able to win success for his party and his country in these contests, and he had thus become extremely popular and influential.
Obviously, Lord Palmerston was not much interested in the domestic affairs of England. So, probably his most notable deed of that kind was that he had secured the admission of Jews into parliament in 1858, but of the proposed further reform of parliament along the lines of the Reform Bill of 1832, to which the Liberal party was turning, he was actively or passively opposed, and the subject was therefore postponed till after his death.
Gladstone and the revival of parliamentary reform
Many prominent men in the Liberal party, although they had refused for many years after 1832 to agree to any further reform and had opposed the efforts of the Chartists, came in time to believe that the right of voting should be extended more widely and that the districts which were represented should be made more nearly equal. This agitation began about 1852. The leader who best represented these views and who was most influential in carrying out further reforms was William Ewart Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone, who served altogether for more than sixty years in parliament, entered the House of Commons in 1833, the year after the adoption of the first Reform Bill. He was then a Conservative, though one of the moderate group which was under the influence of Sir Robert Peel, just as Palmerston and Peel himself had been under that of Canning. Gladstone was soon admitted to one of the Conservative ministries in an inferior office, and after that time for some years was a member of almost every ministry of that party.
His opinions, however, like those of Peel, gradually changed in a liberal direction. He became famous for his knowledge of the details of financial and commercial questions and for his skill in explaining them. In 1853 he became chancellor of the Exchequer and usually afterwards occupied that office when in the ministry. He introduced life and fire and eloquent interests into all his financial statements and into the defence of the principles upon which they were based. Often by his eloquence he held the House of Commons spellbound for hours at a time while he explained and advocated measures of the most commonplace financial character. In 1858 he became chancellor of the Exchequer in a purely Liberal cabinet and from that time forward was identified with the most advanced section of the Liberal party.
Gladstone was one of those who advocated further reform of parliament and for several years gave eloquent but unsuccessful support to the efforts that were made to obtain it before it became a party measure. Several bills for the purpose were introduced between 1853 and 1863 by private members of parliament and even by members of the ministry, and reform was advocated mildly in the queen’s speech. But, as has been said, the prime minister, Lord Palmerston, was privately opposed to it; there was much division within the party on the question, and for some years no measure favorable to reform made its way through parliament.
In 1865, on the death of Lord Palmerston, Gladstone became the unquestioned leader of the Liberal party, though Lord Russell, as the older and more prominent man, became prime minister. A reform bill was now introduced and heartily advocated by the Liberal ministry, but was defeated in the House of Commons notiwthstanding the strong popular interest in reform which was showing itself in the country. The ministry, as a result of this vote, resigned in 1866, and a Conservative ministry came into office.
Disraeli and acceptance of the principle of reform
The most prominent and influential member of the Conservative cabinet was Benjamin Disraeli. This able and active minister had entered parliament in 1837, four years after Gladstone, but unlike him remained a Conservative through the whole of a long and active parliamentary career. He had few advantages of position, being of Jewish descent and having many peculiarities of manner and appearance that were distasteful to members of parliament. He was, however, brilliant in speech and far-seeing in policy, and long before 1866 had become the real leader of the Conservative party. Disraeli and Gladstone were opponents on almost all measures, and this antagonism continued throughout their lives.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Liberals had been defeated on the question of reform, the Conservatives felt that some kind of reform bill must be introduced. Every one had come to feel that further reform of parliament must be made, and the only question was the form and extent of the change.”
Part 4, which is a practical part, is in this case spreaded throughout the whole structure of the lesson and combined with the part 3, since all the practical tasks immediately follow texts for reading or audition.
Lesson 2: Great Britain during the late Victorian period
4) Lesson organization (2-3 minutes)
5) Review of the lesson 1 (5-7 minutes)
6) New studies (15-20 minutes)
4) Practical training (15 minutes)
5) Homework (1-2 minutes)
The structure and organization of the lesson 2 is not different from that of the lesson 1, since they’re both intended for studies of the two parts of the same historical period. The lesson should be started with reading and analysis of the introductory text on the topic:
“The originating and terminal dates of the Later Victorian period recommended by researchers are 1867 and 1900 respectively, though they are partly a matter of convenience. The year 1867 forms a useful start if not a sharp divide in Victorian history. According to Geoffrey Kitson Clark, it was the point at which “the old regime began to break”.
Later Victorian Britain was pre-eminently a stable society in which disputes were conducted within understood guidelines. Public disturbances such as the Trafalgar square riots of February 1886 and November 1887 were rare.
To outsider and also to many at home Britain appeared a model community capable of resolving internal conflicts without resort to excessive force or revolution. Britain, by the norms of other nations, enjoyed high degrees of social cohesion and national unity built on consent and cooperation between the governed and the ruling order.
This sense of community survived despite the economic difficulties of the period, troubles in Ireland, labor unrest, imperial problems, religious tensions and a hard-fought political contest between competing fractions.
By the turn of the nineteenth century the country had become a mass democracy, though not one founded on the universal suffrage. It was a heavily urbanized community based increasingly on distribution and professional services for economic success.
The United Kingdom population grew by almost a third in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, a higher growth rate than for 1841 – 1871, though here the rate is influenced by the Irish famine and its aftermath.
The growth of real GNP was impressively high throughout the whole Victorian period, and especially the Later Victorian time. It had more than doubled in the period to 1871 and, in spite of growing anxieties about Britain’s weakening competitive position it nevertheless managed an 83 per cent increase to 1901. Consequently, national product per capita also exhibited a steady growth.
If anything, there were many indications in the pre-1867 heritage to suggest that change in Britain would generate much more turbulence than was experienced by the late Victorians. In the large number of respects the period is remarkable”.
There should be a report too, exactly like in the lesson one. The probable topic could be such an event as the “Rise of the professions”:
“A phenomenon which gathered considerable pace in the Later Victorian period was the emergence of a substantial and powerful professional groups, or classes, -though the latter, perhaps, is not quite the right word – within the British middle class. The emergence of the large group of professional occupations was naturally a function of more global developments in the nineteenth-century Britain: the growth maturation of the world’s first modern capitalist economy; an increasing, and an increasingly prosperous, population, together with it’s concentration in urban settlements; and the diversification of the industrial structure, with an increased emphasis upon the service sectors.
The growing urbanization of the United Kingdom also contributed to the rise of the professions. From the ranks of the expanding “urbanized” group came not only those who retained non-industrial tasks of the traditional professional occupations – religion, law, medicine and education – but also those who helped to professionalise other occupations connected with the demands of the post-industrial world: accounting, surveying, civil and mechanical engineering, and so on. The “rise of the professions”, then, was very much part, and a key part, of the growth of the middle class and the emergence of what has been termed the “service class”.
Numbers in the population group which can be entitled “professional occupations and their subordinate services” in the United Kingdom are found to rise from 345000 in 1861 to 515000 in 1881 and 735000 in 1901, an increase of 113 per cent, 1861 – 1901.
One should pay attention to the implications for Britain of the rise of a professional culture. The professions, though growing, remained numerically small, about 4 per cent of the labor force by the year 1900. But there is abundant evidence to suggest that this group wielded a disproportionate amount of influence in the Later Victorian society. In well-known among the British researchers formulation, professionals, by esposing the ideal of the educated gentleman, helped to perpetuate the pre-industrial distinction between the gentlemen and the players. With the former predominating, this encouraged the incorporation of industrialists into a refashioned elite.
As a result, the professions, being numerically small, still expanded their numbers and economical influence and came to dominate the economic, social and political life of the country.
The question is how did the professions manage to achieve their exalted station? It is supposed that they did so because the state lent them authority, specialist services being deemed essential to the efficient running of the society.
Areas of increased state responsibility such as, for example, public health required specialized knowledge. In turn the state permitted individual professions to manage their own internal affairs, to control entry and enforce standards of competence and behaviour. The professions, for their part, posited claims to privileged status on the posession of exceptional responsibility and respectability as evidenced by the requirements of training, qualifying examinations and obedience to the canons of controlling bodies.
The professions provided the vital bridge between the dignified and efficient sections of the community. They formed the cornerstone of a refashioned social and political hierarchy, a new elite which managed the state effectively. The potential British dissidents found themselves deprived of the support and leadership of the bulk of the professional middle class, which preferred its position as a group accorded financial and occupational recognition by the existing state.
The rise of the professions pointed both forwards and backwards: backwards in that professionalisation failed to shake off the trappings of aristocratic values; forwards in that it encouraged a greater degree of government intervention in the economy, the hallmark of the modern twentieth-century state.”
Finally, there should be a listening comprehension since all the listening exercises are extremely useful anyway. It would be also useful to follow it with writing an essay on the Victorian Period in whole or any particular theme which can be picked out by a pupil. Here’s an example of the text for listening comprehension:
“Stability in Britain of the later Victorian period rested on the twin pillars of a belief in – and respect for – the Constitution and the ability of the economy to produce a satisfactory standard of living. The first could not function without a stable institutional framework , while the latter required an effective economic structure.
Although few could define closely what the “Constitution” was at that time, it did simply a set of values as much as a list of precise rules and regulations. At the cornerstone of the “Constitution” were the monarchy, Parliament and an avowedly impartial judiciary. Parliament, and especially the House of Commons and Cabinet, were the center of government – the places where change was discussed, formulated and presented to the nation at large.
Possibly at no other time did the House of Commons play so central a role in the political system – it was at this time a focus of public attention, the chief forum for argument and and the legitimate instrument to initiate reforms. Outsiders like Irish nationalists, nonconformists, trade unionists and women accepted that the House of Commons was the appropriate forum to air grievances and demands. That concurrence helps explain the stability of the nation – though it was a consensus which could only be maintained so long as the whole community through the House of Commons showed itself responsive to people’s aspirations.
Dignified organs such as the monarchy and the House of Lords were essential because they enjoyed recognition and legitimacy. Under the cloak of the dignified elements, the efficient instruments of governance – the House of Commons and Cabinet – were able to conduct the affairs of state.
A great deal of stability in the United Kingdom of the Late Victorian time came from its electoral system.
There was an intense debate about who was allowed to vote and how the franchise was to be exercised. The electoral system introduced during the Late Victorian period succeeded in satisfying both the aspirations of the “responsible” working classes for political recognition and the desire of the governing classes for stability. Many people on the eve of the Reform Act of 1867 had doubted that the two aims could be reconciled. The electoral system which emerged provided a formula for expression of strong feelings while containing safeguards to ensure continuity and stability. It succeeded because major groups were not alienated from British institutions and the working class was united with its superiors in wanting a system that functioned smoothly, efficiently and most of all economically.
Britain, in consequence, was ale to maintain an electoral apparatus which was relatively cheap and enjoyed public confidence. Also, the stability of the United Kingdom was possible because the remodelled political elite chose to limit public competition for the favor of the masses and sought instead to ensure that the voters were incorporated into the existing political framework. Thus there was little attempt to exploit potential discontent for partisan ends. Britain was able to move from limited to house-hold suffrage during Victorian years without fundamentally disrupting the political fabric.
Much use can be derived from considering the question of stability of the political system from a local perspective.
A research carried out by John Garrard provides an observation that both the Liberal and the Conservative parties adapted rapidly to the challenge of the enfranchisement. They created powerful and all-encompassing organisations to produce acceptable political behaviour in the new votes. Parties were an instrument of social cohesion for they built up a total culture which met many of the social and psychological requirements of the community.
It is doubtful that the development of a complete political culture was apparent in the Liberal and Conservative parties of the Late Victorian era and did not have to await the coming of the Labor party. Local leaders reacted quickly and appropriately to the prospect of an enlarged electorate. These leaders used political activity to enlarge and consolidate their own standings in society while at the same time contributing organization and respectability to the electoral process.
National and local political activities were linked. Political parties were an important element in the rise of the urban elites. Through parties the working class was persuaded of the legitimacy and responsiveness of existing British institutions.”