Woman as an angel

The role of the woman: angel or pioneer?

In 1854 the English poet Coventry Patmore published The Angel in the House, a narrative poem describing an idealised courtship. In the course of the 19th century the woman was idealized as the angel of the house, whose duties were to provide moral support to her husband, to keep the house tidy and to educate the children. The husband maintained his role as the head of the family and his dutie was keep his wife out of the workplace. The emblematic example of this ideal was the royal family; Victoria was both an authoritative queen and a humble and lovely wife. As a result, it was the queen who established the ideal figure of the Victorian wife and mother.

Women and sport

Queen Victoria established a new trend when she visited the Isle of Wight in the 1840s. Thanks to the introduction of the railways, many women were able to enjoy a day out at he seaside. In the 1850s, girls were encouraged to try archery and croquet. However, physical exercise was made difficult by bulky skirts. The American Mrs Bloomer caused a sensation when she introduced knickerboockers for women to Britain in the 1850s.

Women travellers

Despite the ideal of the woman as the angel of the house, Victorian women found that they could be independent and strong and face difficult survival challenges This was the case of Lady Anne Blunt who travelled extensively in the Arabian desert with her husband, or of the woman who emigrated to America or Australia with their families and had to adapt to rough conditions.

Women and medicine

In 1854 Florence Nightingale left her position as superintendent of a sanatorium to lead a team of nurses to the Crimea. By the time she returned home, having reformed the military hospitals, she was a national heroine. The value of professional nurses was recognised for the first time in 1860, when St Thomas’s Hospital in London opened its training school for nurses.

Women travel writers and painters

Marianne North was the daughter of a wealthy Victorian family. After her mother’s death in 1855, she travelled extensively with her father, and in 1869 she decided to paint the flora of the distant countries she visited. She went to Australia and New Zealand, America, Canada, South Africa, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and Jamaica. Her paintings of natural landscapes, flowers and plants that had not yet been classified, birds and animals can be seen at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.

The British Empire

During the reign of Queen Victoria, Great Britain ruled over a wide and powerful empire that brought the British in a contact with various cultures.

What size did the British Empire reach during Victoria’s reign?  In the last decades of the 19th century, the British Empire occupied an area of 4 million square miles and more than 400 million people were ruled over by the British, although through the use of varying practices. When may Britain’s imperial activity be said to have begun? It may be said to have begun during the second half of the 16th century. This was the time when Queen Elizabeth I, and later James I, encouraged “plantations”- the settling of English and Scottish people in Ireland on land forcibly taken from the native Irish. In 1600, Elizabeth I also chartered the British East India Company, a trading concern that was eventually to rule over much of today’s India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  What happened after the 1857 Indian Mutiny? India came under direct rule by Britain, and Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India by the British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, in 1877.

What other territories did the British occupy during the Victorian Age?

The british also occupied Australia and New Zealand, seized parts of China- including Hong Kong in 1841- and expanded their possessions in Africa and Southeast Asia- annexing Burma, for example in 1886.

Did they also expand in Africa?

Expansionist activity reached a crescendo with the scramble for Africa in the 1880s and 1890s. This was a race among European powers to establish territorial rights to those parts of the continent as yet unclaimed. Britain took over Egypt to protect its routes to India through the Suez Canal in 1882 and the Sudan in 1884. from 1899 to 1902, Britain was at war in South Africa against the Dutch settlers, the Boers, over control of gold and diamond mines. The British eventually win, but with great difficulty.

What kind of empire did Britain create?

Because the British came into contact with and subdued vastly different areas at different times, they were able to shape imperial and colonial policy gradually, adapting to different realities and producing an empire united in name but varied in fact.

Were there expression of civic pride and national fervour among the British?

Yes, were frequent in the late 19th century. Patriotism was deeply influenced by ideas of racial superiority. The british had only to look at their empire- at the variety of races and peoples they governed- to find apparent confirmation of this view.

1877, queen Victoria becomes Empress of India

The title Empress of India was given to Queen Victoria in 1877 when India was formally incorporated into the British Empire. Victoria’s desire for such a title probably derived from jealousy of the imperial titles of some of her royal cousins in Germany and Russia. Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali is usually credited with having given her the idea. When Victoria died and her son Edward VII ascended the throne, his title became Emperor of India. The title continued until India became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947.

Burma: the price of indipendence

Burma was annexed as a province of British India in 1886 and Burmese customs were weakened. In 1941 the Japanese invaded Burma, promising indipendence if the British were defeated. At the end of World War II, the leader Aung San negotiated indipendence from Britain, which was granted in 1948. From 1948 to 1962, Burma was a democratic republic, with U Nu as the first prime minister. In 1962 General Ne Win led a military coup d’etat. He ruled for twenty-six years as a dictator, suspending the constitution and establishing military rule. Outside visitors were few and restricted to Rangoon, Mandalay and a handful of other thightly controlled towns close to the central plains. In July 1988, demonstrations broke out across the country during the so-called “Democracy Summer”. In 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the indipendence hero Aung San, founded the National League of Democracy (NLD). Her party quickly gathered country-wide support. Although committed to non-violence, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in July 1989 for endangering the state and kept there for the next six years. Nevertheless, her party won the elections in 1990. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; in 2003, she was imprisoned once again and released in 2010. The humanitarian situation in Burma is disastrous and civil war still ravages the border areas. The effect of military rule has been an impoverished and underdeveloped nation; Burma is rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index. Peace, democracy and the most basic human rights do not exist.

The mission of the coloniser:
The concept of the white man’s burden was exalted in the works of colonial writers like Rudyard Kipling, and the expansion of the Empire was often regarded as a mission. Every time the British took control over a territory, they felt they brought civilisation to the barbarian, faith to the heathen, wealth to the poor and law and social and law and social order to primitive societies. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “the white man’s burden” written in 1899 to give advice to the United States on the occasion of the annexation of the Philippines, contains the author’s most famous phrase, “the white man’s burden” wich made him the bard of the English Empire and came to symbolise the belief in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, both military and civil, paved the way to a new conception of the potentiality and place in society of the trained and educated woman. This in turn led in the 1860s and 1870s to John Stuart Mill’s movement for women’s suffrage, which Miss Nightingale supported, and to the founding of women’s colleges and the improvement of girls’ schools, when at length some provision was made for the neglected higher education of one half of the queen’s subjects. Later on, at the time of the two World Wars, women joined the nursing profession to take an active part in the war effort, as is narrated in contemporary British novelist Ian McEwan’s masterpiece Atonement.

What did the British think of their role as colonisers?

There was a bielef that the “races” of the world were divided by fundamental pshysical and intellectual differences- that sime were destined to be led by others. It was thus an obligation “the white man’s burden”, imposed by God on the British to impose their superior way of life, their institutions, laws and politics on native peoples throughout the world.

Charles Darwin and the evolution

In the second half of the 19th century, Britain reached the peak of its power abroad; however, some ideological conflicts were beginning to undermine the self-confident attitude that had characterised the first part of Victoria’s reign. Changes regarded several fields, especially scientific achievements, industrialisation, sexuality and religion, and a growing pessimism began to affect intellectuals and artists, who expressed in different ways their sense of doubt