Shades of Victorian Britain in 2017

British society today has striking parallels with the Victorian (Dickensian) era. More children survived infancy; people lived longer; immigration was substantial, in particular large numbers of migrants coming from Ireland because of the potato famine. On top was the British government’s failure to provide adequate amenities for the growing, ageing population.

Britain needed more and more young and skilled people to run its expanding empire. Those at home were left to their own devices. The human cost was very high.

Governance in Victorian Britain was a failure, even though the Royal Navy ruled the waves, and Britain was the most powerful country in the world. 

Theresa May’s vision in 2017 is very Victorian. Leaving the old, the poor, and the vulnerable to their own devices, Theresa May has committed herself to embarking on a bold world venture. Claims that she has broken from Thatcherism, or moved to the Left, are misplaced. Anchored in her own Christian beliefs, Theresa May’s vision marks a return to something akin to Victorian Britain. Like in the nineteenth century, many people seem helpless, ready to go along and elect her Conservative Party on 8 June.

A fascinating aspect of the Victorian era was that Charles Dickens and Karl Marx lived through the period from the early to late nineteenth century. Their writings were inspired by the same social conditions – Dickens in his novels, Marx in his socio-political works, which came to be known as Marxism.

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