Ideas and Beliefs of the Victorians: An Historic Revaluation of the Victorian Age


I have been asked to join in this introductory programme in my double capacity as an historian and as a relic of the Victorian Age, for I was already twenty-five when the Queen and the century came to an end together.

I have no intention tonight of trying epitomise the ideas and beliefs of the Victorian era, for they were various and mutually contradictory, and cannot be brought together under one or two glib generalisations. But as all the thought of the age arose out of the circumstances of the age, I think this introductory talk can be best devoted to a rough outline of some of the governing conditions of life in nineteenth-century Britain. Later talks will be more abstract, on the thoughts and feelings of men. This first talk will be factual, on some of the circumstances that conditioned their thinking and feeling.

The BBC has chosen the time for this series well. The period of reaction against the nineteenth century is over; the era of dispassionate historical valuation of it has begun. We can by this time examine without prejudice what we have inherited from the Victorians, what we have improved away, and what we have lost; how like we are to them and how unlike. The period to be covered cannot be strictly confined to the reign of Victoria (1837-1901). To see the origin of Victorian ideas and conditions in which the early Victorians were brought up, we must look back to 1815, the end of the Napoleonic wars, the age of Cobbett and Lord Eldon, of Shelley, Byron and Scott. The close of the century, the age of Gladstone, Salisbury and the Fabian Society, of Hardy and Meredith, of the Savoy Opera, and the grand old Victorian Bernard Shaw, presents a very . . .

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • G. M. Trevelyan
  • E. L. Woodward
  • John Summerson
  • H. J. Laski
  • Frederick S. J. Copleston
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • London
Publication year:
  • 1949


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