Victorianism Beyond Britain
Victorianism—in architecture, science, governance, and culture—impacted heavily upon the wider world. Britain's short-lived preeminence as an imperial power bequeathed a rather hardier cultural imprint on the world. After the globalization of the English language, the most striking effect was in the character of civic culture in the English-speaking colonies and dominions: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In these places, political systems, bureaucracies, and education took on a clearly Victorian character. Victorianism also affected street design and civic building programs—in India, parts of Africa, and the Far East, as well as in the Dominions. Urbanism marked the Victorian world outside of Britain, as well as within. So great was the growth in Sydney, for example, that in 1901 that city (not Liverpool or Glasgow) boasted "it now stands as the second city of the British Empire, as estimated by the annual value of its rateable property" (Briggs, p. 310).
Even when it stood at the leading edge of world culture, exercising a hegemonic power over large swaths of the globe, Victorianism had its critics. In politics, social thought, and economics, interventionism and a demand for action pushed classical laissez-faire ideologies to one side. Sexual repressiveness was challenged; many on the left of politics rejected capitalism; and an imperial rot set in after the arduous struggles of the Boer War (1899–1902). The challenge to Victorianism often came in the shape of a wholesale anti-Victorianism from a disparate array of groups: workers, women, socialists, bohemians, and from anticolonialists beyond the metropolitan stage.
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Donald M. MacRaild
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