Scotlands History

The Victorians

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) ruled for nearly 64 years: she was the longest reigning British monarch. The Victorian Age was an era of enormous enterprise, population growth, ambition, and great exhibitions to showcase industrial progress.

Lifestyles changed dramatically, with many people moving into towns and cities, with huge contrasts from slums to airy suburbs. Armies of servants tended the well-to-do families of mid-Victorian times, while the middle classes aspired to work their way out of poverty in early suburban terrace houses stuffed with heavy Victorian furniture.

Large families were considered desirable. Some people had ten or more children; the Queen had nine.

Travel became affordable with the developing railway network, and goods from abroad became more common. Package tours abroad were designed for the wealthy; you could steam across the Atlantic in a liner; the telegraph and telephone were born; and the Suez Canal (1869) shortened the sea route to India by seven thousand miles.

A host of Victorian Scots were at the forefront of this progress with new inventions and discoveries. They included James Clerk Maxwell (light and radiation), James Young Simpson (anaesthetics), Alexander Graham Bell (the telephone), Alexander Bain (telegraphy), James Nasmyth (the steam hammer), James Dewar (the vacuum flask), Joseph Lister (antiseptic surgery), David Brewster (polarisation of light), and Robert Brown (the cell nucleus).

  • A photograph of Queen Victoria and John Brown.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

A sepia photograph of a woman looking at the floor

Pencils of Light

Learn about the first ever photographic club, the members and their photos.