A Short List to Remember
The Victorian Age was a time of profound cultural changes and of important political reforms that ranged from laws that improved working conditions in factories to more widespread rights to vote and even the opportunity for many to have an education.
The Whig party was successful in maintaining power for the better part of the period, while the political competition that ensued with the Tories also contributed to implement the changes mentioned above.
To be more specific this is a list of laws that might prove helpful:
•1832 First Reform Act – it was advocated by Whig aristocratic politicians and gave the right to vote to middle class male citizens.
•1833 Factory Act – employers were not allowed to have children work more than 48 hours a week and all workers under 18 more than 69 hours per week.
•1834 Poor Law Amendment Act – it established workhouses where poor people could seek shelter and food but where families lived separately and were not allowed to share the same lodgings.
•after the 1845 Irish Potato Famine – Sir Robert Peel, the Prime minister was forced to free the price of corn as asked by the “Corn Law Movement” favoured by the middle class industrialists who, through free trade, hoped to gain more political power over the long lasting one detained by the land-owners and agriculture.
•1847 Ten Hours Act – it set a ten hour working day for all workers.
•1867 Second Reform Act – gave vote to skilled working men.
•1870 – state education system provided widespread literacy to meet the new economic and industrial needs.
•1871 Trade Union Act – legalised all Trade Unions which not only fought for the worker’s rights to obtain higher wages and a more efficient welfare system through many successful strikes, but they also provided education for their associates.
•1875 Public Health Act – due to the high mortality of epidemics such as the cholera and the typhoid, the growing cities’ municipalities developed an efficient organization that was able to provide to its inhabitants clean water and sanitation; but, it must be added that Victorian cities already had gas lighting and the rubbish was collected regularly; they also had town halls, railway stations, public libraries, museums, music halls, boarding schools, hospitals, police stations and prisons.
•1884 – all male householders could now vote, the secret ballot and payment of MPs were also introduced thanks to which, on the one side politicians’ corruption was put to an end, and on the other even less privileged individuals could have a political career.
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© L. R. Capuana