History 394: Victorian England: 1815-1919

Course Meets: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:45-1 in BD 182
Professor J. Bronstein
Office: Breland 225
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30-11:30
Phone: 646-4200
Email: jbronste@nmsu.edu

In 1815, Great Britain was a tired nation, having endured 22 years of warfare with France. But the Pax Britannica that concluded the war enabled the most prosperous and powerful century in the history of Britain. The next hundred years saw the industrial revolution push Britain to become the most powerful nation in the world, with colonies so vast that "the sun never set on the British empire." Victoria, who began her career as an 18-year-old queen, would end her career as the "Empress of India." The nation was prosperous, revelling in its technological supremacy at the 1851 Great Exhibition, and moving at unprecedented speeds across the nation’s rail network. But class conflict was in the offing. Even as the British aristocracy was at its zenith, foxhunting, living in country houses and enjoying the social "seasons" at London and Bath, workers protested against oppressive work conditions and grinding poverty. Although the Luddites, the Chartists, the New Model Unionists and the agricultural laborers’ union rose and fell over the decades, the new Labour party finally became a fixed star in the political firmament, forever changing the nature of British politics. The Great War was the capstone calling into question all of the certainties of the Victorian era.

This course will cover in detail the period from 1815 to 1919 through lectures, discussions, films, and contemporary literature.

Required Readings

Walter Arnstein, ed. The Past Speaks: Sources and Problems in British History, second ed., vol. 2.

Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil

William Morris, News from Nowhere (Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0140433309)

Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0140173269)

Students’ Responsibilities

  1. Writing Assignments (one-third of grade): History is all about good writing – learning how to use evidence and crafting historical arguments. Therefore, a lot of our collective energy will be dedicated to short writing assignments. Every Thursday, students will be responsible for 1-2 pages of writing relating to the readings for that week. The professor will distribute a specific, thought-provoking assignment, or will distribute a set of themes from which students may choose. All writing assignments should be original, type-written or word-processed, and prepared in 12-point font or less, double spaced, with margins no larger than an inch. At the end of the semester all of the writing assignments will be averaged together, and the total will represent one-third of the student’s grade.
  2. Midterm Examination (one-third of grade). The midterm examination will be some combination of identification and essay questions intended to tie together the themes of the course and monitor student understanding of the material. Anyone who misses the midterm for an excused absence (religious holiday, illness documented by a doctor’s note, or absence on pre-approved university business) can make up the midterm the Friday of the week prior to finals and at no other time.
  3. Final Examination (one-third of grade). The final examination will follow the same format of the midterm. It will be given Thursday, December 12 from 8-10 am and at no other time. It is the responsibility of each student to make sure that he or she can be in class for the final exam.

Attendance: Attendance is mandatory. Any student who misses class more than three times during the semester without a doctor’s note or prior agreement with the professor will have 10 percent deducted from his or her final grade at the end of the semester.

There will be no extra credit offered. There will be no extensions on writing assignments. Students who are excused from class for illness will be expected to submit all work at the next class at which they are present. Students who are absent for any other reason must submit all work the next business day after the missed class.

Grading Scale:

A+=98-100, A=93-97, A-=90-92, B+=88-89, B=83-87, B-=80-82, C+=78-79, C=73-77, C-=70-72, D+=68-69, D=63-67, D-=60-62, F=Below 60 percent. Grades ending in .5 or above will be rounded up; grades ending in .49 and below will not.

Lecture Schedule

  1. Week 1: Week of January 10

Readings: None

  1. Introduction and Syllabus Day
  2. England in 1815
  1. Week 2: Week of January 17

Readings: Begin Sybil

  1. The Industrial Revolution
  2. Movie: The Luddites
  1. Week 3: Week of January 24

Readings: Finish Sybil

  1. The Crisis of Reform: 1827-1832
  2. Discussion; Sybil
  1. Week 4: Week of January 31

Readings: The Past Speaks, Chapter 7

  1. Political Economy and the New Poor Law
  2. The Condition of England Question: Factory Reform and Public Health
  1. Week 5: Week of February 7

Readings: Excerpts from Chartist literature

  1. The Rise of the English Middle Class
  2. Chartism
  1. Week 6: Week of February 14

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 9

  1. The English Church
  2. Politics in the Age of Peel
  1. Week 7: Week of February 21

Readings: Begin Self-Help

  1. Crime, Policing and Punishment
  2. Sex and the Victorians
  1. Week 8: Week of February 28

Readings: Finish Self-Help

  1. Midterm Exam, Tuesday March 1
  2. Discussion: Self-Help
  1. Week 9: Week of March 7

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 8

  1. Death and the Victorians
  2. Women’s Status in Victorian England
  1. Week 10: Week of March 14
Readings: Begin William Morris, News from Nowhere

  1. The Age of Equipoise
  1. Week 11: Week of March 28

Readings: Finish William Morris, News from Nowhere

  1. Shopping and Music Halls: Victorian Consumption
  2. Discussion: News from Nowhere
  1. Week 12: Week of April 4

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 10

  1. Gladstonian Liberalism
  2. Disraelian Conservatism
  1. Week 13: Week of April 11

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 11

  1. The Irish Question
  2. Outcast London
  1. Week 14: Week of April 18

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 13

  1. The Rise and Fall of Agriculture and Aristocracy
  2. Political Realignments and Labour
  1. Week 15: Week of April 25

Readings: The Past Speaks, chapter 12 and 14

  1. England and Empire
  2. The Strange Death of Liberal England
  3. Britain in the Great War
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Final Exam: The Final Exam will be held on Thursday, December 12 from 8-10 am.