Social progress in Queen Victoria London times.
Political and social progress, though less astonishing, was substantial. In 1830 England, nominally a monarchy was in reality a plutocracy of about a hundred thousand men--landed nobles, gentry, and wealthy merchants--whose privileges dated back to fifteenth century conditions. The first Reform Bill, of 1832, forced on Parliament by popular pressure, extended the right of voting to men of the 'middle class,' and the subsequent bills of 1867 and 1885 made it universal for men. Meanwhile the House of Commons slowly asserted itself against the hereditary House of Lords, and thus England became perhaps the most truly democratic of the great nations of the world. At the beginning of the period the social condition of the great body of the population was extremely bad. Labourers in factories and mines and on farms were largely in a state of virtual though not nominal slavery, living, many of them, in unspeakable moral and physical conditions. Little by little improvement came, partly by the passage of laws, partly by the growth of trades-unions. The substitution in the middle of the century of free-trade for protection through the passage of the 'Corn-Laws' afforded much relief by lowering the price of food. Socialism, taking shape as a definite movement in the middle of the century, became one to be reckoned with before its close, though the majority of the more well-to-do classes failed to understand even then the growing necessity for far-reaching economic and social changes. Humanitarian consciousness, however, gained greatly during the period. The middle and upper classes awoke to some extent to their duty to the poor, and sympathetic benevolent effort, both organized and informal, increased very largely in amount and intelligence. Popular education, too, which in 1830 had no connection with the State and was in every respect very incomplete, was developed and finally made compulsory as regards the rudiments.
Was a reign of vast and unceasing progress and of notable legislative and other reforms: educational progress, sanitary progress, progress in science
and invention, economic, social, and moral progress; improvement of every kind in every way; the reign of iron, steel, and steam; of penny-postage, gas for lighting purposes, railroads, steamships, ironclads, telegraphs, omnibuses, telephones, tramcars, underground railways, the Forth railway-bridge, electric lighting, mechanical improvements in every branch of manufacture; the reign of great charities, cheap travelling facilities, vast hotels, and of complete change in the social habits of the people generally, upper-class, middle-class, and artisan class.
The reign of trade unions and of labour representation in Parliament; and the reign of vast accumulations of wealth, not to add of newspapers.
No sovereign was more universally beloved by her people than Queen Victoria, and for none was more universal national sorrow felt and expressed at her death.