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VictorianBritain

'VictorianBritain'
VICTORIAN BRITAIN When we describe Great Britain in the Victorian period, words like stability, progress, prosperity, reform, and Imperialism come to mind. The British had grounds for some satisfaction because evidence of great economic growth and technical progress seemed to abound. Despite the continued existence of widespread poverty, teeming, miserable slums and poor working conditions in many industries, the British could take some real pride in the obvious fact that the vast majority of British subjects were better fed, better housed, and enjoyed more of life's amenities than ever before. Politically, Great Britain enjoyed remarkable stability. From the moment of her accession, Queen Victoria (r. 1837­1901) showed the qualities that were to remain with her throughout her reign: a strong sense of duty, a conviction of moral righteousness, and a deep feeling for her country, “since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station,” she wrote in her diary, “I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country? I am very young, and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.” Queen Victoria’s marriage to the earnest young German prince, Albert of Saxe­Coburg­Gotha, helped to establish the modern role of the British monarchy. Victoria and Albert quickly grasped the significance of the monarchy's new functions, which combined a small amount of political manipulation with an unlimited responsibility as the emotional and ceremonial focus of a people in social turmoil. It was Albert whose growing domination over his wife forced Victoria to take an interest in matters that had previously bored her, such as science and literature and even industrial progress. The Crystal Palace: 1851 In 1849, Albert hit upon the idea of the Great Exhibition, “to give us a true test and a living picture of the point of development at which the whole of mankind has arrived in this great task of applied science and a new starting point from which all nations, will be able to direct their further exertions.” The prince's idea was approved by the Royal Society, and won the financial backing of industry and the general public, who subscribed £200,000 as guarantee. A Royal commission of architects and engineers was appointed to plan the building and exhibits. Out of 234 plans submitted, the commission, urged by the prince, eventually picked the most original design of all, a massive greenhouse designed by the head gardener of a northern duke. Joseph Paxton, however, was no mere gardener, but an engineer, railroad director, newspaper promoter, and imaginative architect in glass and iron. He offered a building 1,848 feet long, 308 feet broad, and 66 feet high, tall enough to cover the old elm trees already occupying the chosen site in Hyde Park. It was composed of mass­produced and standardized parts, including over 6,000 15­foot columns and o
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VictorianBritain
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