Quality of Life in the Victorian Era

Table of Content

In 19th century Britain, there existed distinct and contrasting lifestyles and experiences between the rich and poor. The quality of life during the Victorian era was heavily influenced by one’s social status and economic standing. The privileged upper class enjoyed a comfortable and convenient life, while those who were less fortunate endured a harsh and challenging existence, oftentimes being forced into workhouses or suffering untimely deaths. By 1851, British society had become divided into different social classes, with the aristocracy wielding power and wealth, and the aspiring middle class accumulating riches as they managed businesses. Notably, the individuals residing in villages or towns, often employed as servants in wealthy households, faced dire poverty.

In the lives of the wealthy, birth was more important than wealth. Wealthy male infants were taken care of by governesses and nannies before going to prestigious public schools such as Eton or Harrow. They would then complete their education at Oxford or Cambridge. On the other hand, girls received education at home primarily focused on preparing for marriage. Some attended boarding schools, and a few lucky ones were able to pursue higher education at university towards the end of the 19th century.

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The eldest son inherited both his father’s estate and title. Affluent households had meals that exceeded their needs, with any excess being shared with employees who lived on their land. As time went on in the century, individuals from the middle class started taking annual vacations.

In a typical middle-class family, children were primarily cared for by a nanny and referred to their father as “Sir.” The mother’s role involved managing the household and guiding servants and tradesmen in their duties. Middle-class households upheld values of religion, modesty, cleanliness, self-improvement, and hard work. They also found pleasure in activities like musical evenings, stamp collecting, butterfly collecting, and going to the theatre. In contrast, the working class resided in small cottages on their employer’s property. Leaving their employers meant leaving behind housing and facing homelessness or seeking shelter in workhouses.

During the 19th century, a significant number of individuals remained in the same job for long periods due to limited educational opportunities. However, it was only with the introduction of the 1880 education act that primary school became mandatory for impoverished individuals. Poverty, which is defined as being poor, compelled many children from these families to work and contribute to their family’s income. The more family members who worked, the better their financial resources became, leading to improved living conditions and increased access to food. For those extremely impoverished individuals without a home or job, workhouses provided both shelter and opportunities to earn their livelihood through various tasks.

The concept was to assist the poor in sustaining themselves. Poverty resulted in appalling living and working conditions for the majority of the population. Countless individuals resided in abysmal squalor, enduring cold, damp, and poorly constructed housing. Overcrowding exacerbated the spread of disease. Employment situations were dreadful, with workers receiving meager wages for enduring long hours in factories, mines, and mills. Work was arduous and hazardous, lacking safety measures and adequate working conditions. Consequently, this gave rise to significant social problems such as alcoholism and violence. These challenges were pervasive across urban centers throughout Britain.

In the 19th century, poverty was widely attributed to a person’s own actions and behaviors, such as laziness, alcoholism, or wastefulness. It was believed that individuals needed to take responsibility for avoiding and escaping poverty through self-help. To determine whether certain sources are primary or secondary, we will examine some relevant materials. Primary sources may have numerous copies if they were popular and easily accessible at the time of creation.

Secondary sources are created after primary sources and often refer to or discuss primary sources. They can provide additional perspectives, sometimes referred to as bias, on a past event or the primary source. Secondary sources are typically more widely available. When examining Source D, it is evident that it is a secondary source. It was written in 2001 by Victorian diaries in London and was unintentionally written by Lady Maria Hobart, as she did not anticipate anyone reading her diary. Furthermore, it unintentionally describes an event from her life.

The diary, written by her at the time, serves as the primary source of her memories of the special day. She was quite affluent, evident from the presence of a maid and eight bridesmaids. Additionally, a sir escorted her at the church. After their wedding ceremony, a horse and carriage picked her and her husband up from the church. Being educated herself, her staff joyfully joined in celebrating their marriage. The diary exhibits a strong positive bias and is remarkably well-written and precise. According to Source B, which may be unreliable due to the author’s protective stance towards his father and his young age.

The father’s role as the sole breadwinner indicates the impoverished status of this family, as noted in the primary source diary of George Edwards. The presence of a workhouse further emphasizes their poverty. The images in source F are also primary and include photos taken during that time period. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is a strong bias in the images, particularly in image one which only represents the upper class. Image six was deliberately taken to showcase the hardships faced by the poor. Another image, image two, portrays a child working as a miner, reflecting the impact of the 1842 mines act which prohibited children under 10 from working in mines.

This passage discusses the portrayal of a poor family and the distinction between primary and secondary sources. It highlights that in a poor family, all members, including children, had to work. The passage also emphasizes the significance of primary sources, which are firsthand accounts or information obtained directly from the source or person. It mentions that diaries serve as primary sources because they are written by the individuals themselves. Primary sources provide information without any interpretation from others. On the other hand, secondary sources are works that analyze, interpret, and discuss information derived from primary sources.

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Quality of Life in the Victorian Era. (2016, Jul 24). Retrieved from


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