The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, "refined sensibilities" and national self-confidence for the United Kingdom. Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.
Within the fields of social history and literature, Victorianism refers to the study of late-Victorian attitudes and culture, with a focus on the highly moralistic, straitlaced language and behaviour of Victorian morality. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period. The later half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the first part of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe.
Culturally there was a transition away from the rationalism of the Georgian period and toward romanticism and mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts. In international relations the period was one of relative peace in Europe, known as the Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily disrupted by the Crimean War in 1854. The end of the period saw the Boer War. Domestically, the agenda was increasingly liberal with a number of shifts in the direction of gradual political reform, industrial reform and the widening of the voting franchise.
Two especially important figures in this period of British history are the prime ministers Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, whose contrasting views changed the course of history. Disraeli, favoured by the queen, was a gregarious Conservative. His rival Gladstone, a Liberal distrusted by the Queen, served more terms and oversaw much of the overall legislative development of the era.
The population of England and Wales almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901. Scotland's population also rose rapidly, from 2.8 million in 1851 to 4.4 million in 1901. However, Ireland's population decreased sharply, from 8.2 million in 1841 to less than 4.5 million in 1901, mostly due to the Great Famine. Between 1837 and 1901 about 15 million emigrants departed the UK permanently, in search of a better life in the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.
During the early part of the era, politics in the House of Commons involved battles between the two main parties, the Whigs/Liberals and the Conservatives. These parties were led by such prominent statesmen as Lord Melbourne, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Derby, Lord Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli, and Lord Salisbury. The unsolved problems relating to Irish Home Rule played a great part in politics in the later Victorian era, particularly in view of Gladstone's determination to achieve a political settlement in Ireland.