Topic Guide: Victorians

A print showing a seated Queen Victoria and a standing Prince Albert surrounded by their nine children

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children, 1855. Published: W. Dickee

© Wellcome Library, London

    • In this Victorian Topic Guide we will cover: a timeline, Queen Victoria, Victorian fashion, the life of children, the British Empire, Victorian industry and Victorian science.


      Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901, until recently she was the longest reigning monarch in English history (she was recently taken over by Queen Elizabeth II). This resource from the National Archives gives you lots of facts from this time and explains how to use and interpret evidence, using interesting documents and pictures.

      Queen Victoria:

      Queen Victoria was a very interesting lady, she inherited the throne at 18 and married her cousin, Prince Albert in 1840. The Queen had nine children all of whom married into royal and noble families across Europe, earning her the nickname 'The Grandmother of Europe'. Queen Victoria kept a personal account of her life in a diary. You can read extracts from her diary at the official website of the British Monarchy.

      Victorian fashion:
      Fashion changed a lot in the Victorian era, the expansion of the British Empire under Victoria brought in lots of new trends and fashionable looks. The V&A museum has a strong collection of Victorian fashion, especially the clothes worn by wealthy Victorian women. This page tells you more about how wealthy Victorian women dressed.

      Queen Victoria famously wore nothing but black after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. The Fashion Museum has one of her mourning dresses.

      Victorian children:
      Life in the Victorian era was hard for children, many couldn't afford to go to school and had to work instead. This resource from the Museum of London can tell you what life was like for Victorian children in London.

      For information about poor children, like those in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the Hidden Lives project has lots of case studies and photographic evidence of what life was like for them.


      The British Empire grew a great deal during the reign of Queen Victoria. Goods from the empire such as tea, coffee and sugar began to flow into Britain and came to symbolise Britain and its Empire. Can you imagine Britain without its tea?
      This Victorian painting from the National Portrait Gallery gives us lots of clues on how Victorians saw their Empire. What do you think of it?

      Victorian industry:

      The industrial revolution, which began before the Victorian era, was in full swing when Victoria took the throne and so her reign saw a huge expansion of British industry. The London Transport Museum tells us a lot about how Victorian Britain developed railways over-ground and underground.

      The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a major exhibition of manufactured products, it was a way for Britain to show off to the rest of the world about how good their industry was. The contents of the exhibition went on to form the basis of the collection at the V&A, they can tell you all about it on their website.

      Victorian science:

      Along with industry, the Victorian era also saw huge developments in science. Charles Darwin published his work on evolution, On the Origins of Species, in 1859. The Natural History Museum has lots of information about Darwin and evolution and you can read our topic guide on evolution for more information.

      As well as the natural sciences there were technological inventions. Thomas Edison was a famous inventor and scientist who developed light bulbs and telephones, you can find out more him and his work in another article from Show Me.
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