Study Guide

Victorian Literature Timeline

How It All Went Down

1830: First Railway Between Cities

The first railway between British cities is up and running. And the railway boom is on its way. Horses are so over.

1832: First Reform Act

The whole voting process got shaken up with the First Reform Act. Okay, so this mainly only meant that more middle-class men could vote, but, hey, it was a first step.

1836: Pickwick Papers

Dickens starts serializing his first novel, and everyone is hooked: where will the Pickwick Club go next?

1837: Queen Victoria Takes the Throne

Queen Victoria takes the throne, and will reign for 64 years. Luckily, her name works well as an adjective.

1838: Chartism

Working-class men unite to demand more rights, including the vote and secret ballot. Because that First Reform Act kind of totally ignored them…

1839: The Photograph

Fox Talbot presents his new process for taking photographs—forever changing the way we react to memorable experiences. Should I enjoy the view and remember it forever? No, let's take a picture.

1842: Mudie's Circulating Library

Mudie starts lending books in 1842, and the business grows so big that authors start writing with Mudie's in mind. So if you hate three-decker, family-friendly novels, this is the guy to give the stink eye to.

1844: The Telegraph

Samuel Morse improves the telegraph, gets a patent, and sends his first telegram. Now if only we knew Morse code so we could decipher it.

1850: Tennyson Becomes Poet Laureate

It's a new era: Tennyson becomes Poet Laureate after Wordsworth dies.

1851: Great Exhibition

Think county fair, but for a whole empire. Instead of baked goods and flower arrangements, the Great Exhibition showcased the best in art and mechanical inventions. And instead of holding it in a barn, the Victorians kept it classy with a specially built Crystal Palace. (Boy, did Dostoevsky have a lot to say about that Crystal Palace.)

1854: Crimean War

Britain and France unite (for once) in war against a common enemy—the Russians.

1857: Matrimonial Causes Act

The Act establishes a divorce court—and hundreds of petitions start rolling in.

1859: The Origin of Species

Darwin publishes his theory of evolution. Cue heated debates.

1859: Adam Bede

George Eliot publishes her first novel, and as usual, she doesn't shy away from controversy (female preachers and child abandonment for the win).

1867: Second Reform Act

Yet more reforms, this time based on the radical idea that having money doesn't necessarily make you better at making decisions. In other words: working men can now vote.

1870: Married Women's Property Act

The first in a series of Acts that gave married women more control over their property. And yet civilized society does not collapse.

1876: Invention of the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone—and it only takes us another hundred years to invent the cell phone.

1895: The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's play pokes fun at the Victorian personality.

1899-1902: Second Anglo-Boer War

After much fighting, the British convert the Boers' land into a colony—a state that will only last until 1931.