‘Read no history: nothing but biography: for that is life without theory’, wrote Disraeli, one of the eminent Victorians included in the 8th volume of the Who’s Who in British History series.
Victoria was the first English monarch to see her name given to the period of her reign while she was still alive: it was used as early as 1851. There were enough constant factors throughout the Victorian Age to give coherence to it.
It was the age of Empire, with the Royal Navy enforcing the Pax Britannica over much of the world, affording protection to shipping and trade – piracy virtually disappeared. There were large additions to the Empire and the Queen became Empress of India.
Britain’s statesmen, and the Queen through her family connections with other royal monarchs, sought to hold the balance of power between the conflicting ambitions and shifting fortunes of the other European empires. But at the end of her reign the Boer War introduced a note of uncertainty.
Domestically, the period saw an oligarchic constitution being adapted in stages to an industrial society. It was the age when Britain was manufacturer to the world, but at some cost to the working class whose needs were taken up by writers, thinkers and reformers. Into a religious age, the seeds of doubt were sown by Darwin and the new Biblical critics.
The broadly chronological arrangement of the 190 entries make it easier to browse from person to person, gaining an overview of the period. The index enables the reader seeking specific persons to find them quickly and easily.
Roger Ellis has had a long and distinguished career in education as Housemaster at Harrow School, Headmaster at Rossall School and Master at Marlborough College. He served as Chairman of the Headmasters Conference and was awarded a CBE. He edited an edition of Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples and is the co-author of Britain’s Prime Ministers with Geoffrey Treasure.
Keywords: Who’s Who in British History