Scotlands History

The Edwardians

In 1901, King Edward VII (1841-1910) succeeded Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, his mother Queen Victoria. He had been Prince of Wales for 60 years, and his nine-year reign was a sort of postscript to the Victorian age. Despite this, he gives his name to the Edwardians and the Edwardian Age.

It was a period of high fashion and great style: art nouveau was the vogue. The architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) came to the fore: his Glasgow School of Art soon became a famous Edwardian building, as did Scotland Street School, and Hill House in Helensburgh.

The class system was still very rigid. Housing for workers was still sub-standard. Overcrowding led to the spread of disease, in particular tuberculosis. Life expectancy was low. Steel output fell and coal-pits closed, after a freeze on building warships almost bankrupted some of the Clyde shipyards. The economic downturn triggered unrest and political furore.

Two of Edward VII’s prime ministers were Scots: the Conservative Arthur Balfour from 1902 to 1905 and the Liberal Henry Campbell-Bannerman from 1905 to 1908. The power of the opposition Independent Labour Party (ILP) and of influential MPs such as James Keir Hardie (1856-1915) and Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) grew throughout the period. 

  • Black and white photograph of Edward VII at Balmoral
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