The Victorians – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

From 1837 to 1901, the Victorian era was one of the most significant periods in British history. This was a time of considerable change and development, both in Britain and around the world. Significant technological, transportation, and industrial advances were made during this era.

The Victorian era also saw the emergence of important political, social, and cultural movements. As a teacher, it is essential to provide young learners with an understanding of the Victorian era, its impact on the world, and its lasting influence on modern society.

This planning overview provides an introduction to teaching the Victorian era, with guidance on how to help children understand this period of history, including important events, key figures, and cultural aspects. Whether you are a history teacher or just looking to incorporate the Victorian era into your curriculum, this article will help you create a robust plan to engage and educate students in this fascinating period.

Key Timeline Events of the Victorian Era

The Victorian era spanned from 1837 to 1901, and during that period, the world underwent significant social, political, and economic changes. The following is a timeline of some of the most important events that occurred during the Victorian era:

1837: The Reign of Queen Victoria Begins

Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of Britain, marking the start of the Victorian era.

1838: The People’s Charter is Presented to Parliament

The People’s Charter was a proposed bill that demanded universal male suffrage, elections by secret ballot, and other reforms. Although Parliament ultimately rejected it, it sparked a movement for democratic rights.

1842: Mines Act

The Mines Act was passed to prohibit women and children under ten from working underground.

1845: Potato Famine in Ireland

The blight that devastated Ireland’s potato crop resulted in the deaths of over a million people and the emigration of many more.

1848: Year of Revolutions

A series of uprisings swept across Europe in 1848 as people demanded greater political freedom and economic rights.

1851: The Great Exhibition

The Great Exhibition was held in London and showcased industrial products worldwide. It was also a symbol of British economic dominance and innovation.

1857: Sepoy Mutiny

An uprising in India by Indian soldiers against British rule ultimately led to the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown.

1861: Death of Prince Albert

Queen Victoria’s beloved husband and Prince Consort, Albert, died of typhoid fever, plunging the queen into a period of mourning that lasted for many years.

1867: Second Reform Act

The Second Reform Act extended voting rights to male householders in the towns, regardless of their property qualifications.

1870: Education Act

The Education Act established a system of elementary schools for children aged five to twelve, funded by local rates and government money.

1884: Third Reform Act

The Third Reform Act extended the voting franchise to most male householders, regardless of their property qualifications.

1899: Start of Boer War

The Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states in South Africa over the Empire’s influence in the region.

1901: Death of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria died after a reign of 63 years, marking the end of the Victorian era.

These events represent only a few significant moments in the Victorian era. However, they help to provide an understanding of the social, political, and economic changes that occurred during this period, all of which have had lasting effects on the world.

Cultural Changes during the Victorian Era

The Victorian era was a time of significant social, political, and cultural change in Britain. This period made remarkable advances in literature, science, art, and culture. This was partly due to the increased availability of books and newspapers and the rise of industrial technology.

One of the most notable cultural changes during the Victorian era was an increasing focus on morality, manners, education, etiquette, and good behaviour. Values such as respectability and self-discipline were highly valued by society. Women’s roles shifted from mainly domestic activities to public roles in society and culture. In addition, the concept of leisure activities began to emerge.

The expansion of cities created opportunities for various forms of entertainment, including music halls and theatres where variety shows were performed. The development of photography also led to an increased interest in portraiture and formalised family photographs.

Education grew increasingly crucial during this period, with more people attending school than ever. Education was seen as a way to acquire knowledge and a means of character-building and moral instruction. Schools began to focus on teaching children basic skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, and religious education.

Overall, the Victorian era saw profound changes in British culture that shaped its current values and beliefs today. From morality to leisure activities to education standards – these changes reflect how modern British life has evolved.

Significant Technological Advancements During the Victorian Era

The Victorian era was marked by significant technological advancement that revolutionised many aspects of daily life in Britain and worldwide. The following are some of the most critical technological advances during the Victorian era.


The Victorian era saw the expansion of railways across Britain and the world, enabling people and goods to travel more quickly and efficiently than ever before. This significant development helped fuel the growth of trade and industry in the UK.

Steam Power

Steam power significantly impacted the Victorian era and helped fuel the growth of industry and transportation during this period. Before steam power, most factories and mills were powered by water and wind, which limited their locations to areas with reliable access to these natural resources. However, the invention of steam power opened up new possibilities for industrial growth, as factories could now be located almost anywhere.

Steam power was also used for transportation during the Victorian era, most notably in steam-powered trains and steamships. This enabled people and goods to be transported more quickly and efficiently than ever before, which helped fuel the growth of trade and industry in the UK and globally. The introduction of steam power paved the way for the industrial revolution, which profoundly impacted society, transforming how goods were produced and leading to large-scale factories and the birth of modern industrial manufacturing.

Moreover, the impact of steam power was not limited to industry and transportation. The development of steam power also transformed agriculture and mining by enabling machinery to be powered by steam rather than human or animal labour. As a result, people could produce more goods more efficiently, increasing productivity and creating new opportunities for economic growth.

Gas Lighting

Gas lighting was another key technological advancement during the Victorian era. Gas streetlights were first introduced to the streets of London in the early 1800s, and by mid-century, gas lighting had become an essential feature of many public spaces, such as parks and theatres. It was even used to illuminate people’s homes.


The Victorian era saw the widespread adoption of the telegraph, revolutionising communication. By the 1860s, telegraph lines had been laid across the ocean, allowing people to communicate with others on different continents for the first time.

Sewage Systems

During the Victorian era, cities had become overcrowded and unhealthy living places. To improve hygiene and public health, new sewage systems were developed. This significantly reduced the risk of diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever.

Changes to Women’s Roles in the Victorian Era

The Victorian era witnessed a dramatic shift in the role of women within society. Women were expected to embody purity, submissiveness, and domesticity, limiting their roles to mainly domestic tasks. This was primarily due to the perception that women were naturally weaker than men and incapable of entering the workforce or voting.

Despite these restrictions, some women continued to fight for greater equality and representation. As public discourse around gender roles changed, women began taking on new responsibilities, such as working in factories and engaging in philanthropic efforts. Though progress was slow, by 1901, many middle-class women had become educated professionals or business owners, while working-class women fought for better wages and rights throughout their employment.

In addition, Queen Victoria made efforts to improve the social standing of women further. She created policy reform meant to protect married women’s property rights and enacted divorce laws that gave both partners equal rights to divorce. During her reign, she also appointed more female civil servants than any other monarch before she had.

Ultimately, although it would take longer for full gender equality to be achieved, the Victorian era set into motion profound changes for British women that impacted all aspects of society today.

Teaching Opportunities from The Victorian Era

  • Identifying and comparing various socio-political, cultural and technological developments during the Victorian era and their consequences for modern life.
  • Discussing the changing roles of women throughout history and how they impacted society.
  • Exploring the shift in attitudes towards religion, education, morality and leisure activities during the period.
  • Examining works of literature such as works by Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray to explore themes of politics, morality, and social class in the 19th century.
  • Analysing visual art from this period with a focus on portraiture or landscapes that depict changes in industrialisation or urbanisation.
  • Investigating scientific discoveries during this period, such as technological advances or medical breakthroughs.
  • Exploring music composition of the era, including popular anthems or operas written for stage performances.

Lesson Plans for Teaching About the Victorian Era

Lesson 1: Analysing Literature of the Period

This lesson will focus on developing students’ understanding of literature from the Victorian era. Through various activities, students will appreciate how authors used themes such as politics, morality, and social class to explore 19th-century topics.


  • Analyse literary works that were written during this period.
  • Explain various themes found in the results.
  • Connect these themes to modern-day life.

Materials Needed:

  • Works by Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and other authors famous during this period.
  • Handouts and examples from literary excerpts.
  • Student worksheets and discussion questions related to the readings.

Lesson 2: Visual Art of the Period

This lesson will introduce students to various artwork created during the Victorian era, focusing on portraiture or landscapes that depict changes in industrialisation or urbanisation. Students will learn how to analyse art like a historian and gain an understanding of how people viewed the world at the time.


  • Interpret visual art from this period through observation and analysis.                                                                      
  • Identify critical features indicative of Victorian imagery and style. – Connect visual art to broader political and cultural contexts during this era.

Materials Needed:                                                                                               

Printouts of historical artwork along with accompanying resources/background information as necessary (e.g., biographies of artists).

Lesson 3: Speaking & Writing about Social Changes During This Period

This lesson focuses on encouraging student engagement through public speaking and writing activities centred around what life was like for British citizens during this period, including changes in work opportunities for women, advancements in technology, religious practices and more.


– Discuss various socio-political, cultural and technological developments during this period and their consequences for modern life.

– Develop persuasive arguments based on primary sources related to Victorian society (e.g., letters, newspaper articles etc.).

– Compose written pieces outlining ideas about issues faced by people living in Britain at that time (e.g., poverty).

Materials Needed:

– Primary source documents related to different subjects associated with this era (e.g., Crime & Punishment).

– Classroom materials such as paper, pens/pencils etc., to facilitate writing activities/projects according to students’ needs/desires.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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