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Economics in Victorian Society

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Jonny Tamposi

on 10 December 2012

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Transcript of Economics in Victorian Society

Economics in Victorian Society Jon Tamposi Industrial Revolution The Victorian Era held a time of economic growth, success, and prosperity. During this time, the economy grew rapidly. On the home front, the new addition of railroads significantly increased trade, and the average person was generally making more money, regardless of class. England was known as the industrial center of the globe, producing more resources than any other part of the world, such as coal, steel, and cotton cloth. Additionally, the Victorian era held a time of English imperialism, which expanded England’s political and economic power internationally. In the beginning of the Victorian era, England’s economic success in the future looked bright. In Jane Eyre, it is clear that Mr. Rochester’s economic involvement is significant; his character is initially introduced as one who is constantly away on “business" The Railway Craze In the 1840s, the introduction of railway expansion was a major factor in the Victorian economy. Interested in its vast capabilities, investors from all over England invested in the new industry. Railroads made their mark all over the country, leading through major cities which significantly impacted trade and commerce.
Financial troubles did in fact arise with the railroad expansion. People began investing more money than they could, many of these investors being from the middle class. Due to poor business strategies and faulty claims made by the railroad companies, many of these investors saw major losses in their investments, causing resentment. Although England had industrial success during the Victorian era, there were certainly still economic problems.
Economic Deflation As opposed to the inflation we see in the modern economy today, the Victorian era was a time of economic deflation – that value of money actually increased, yet there was less money in circulation. When the Victorian era started, money was still attached to the gold and silver standard, so it was much harder to come by. In result, prices fell. A higher demand for products and services resulted in more investments, which stimulated the Victorian economy. Some say that this was beneficial; however, others say that this had a negative effect. For lower-income people, increasing deflation made it harder for them to pay back loans; the values of their loans were less at the time when they took them out. This deflation may have been a cause of Mr. Rochester’s “loss of fortune” that he describes to Ms. Ingram; it is possible that he hadn’t been able to make back the money he had spent in the recent past. The Modern Company Characteristic of the Victorian era economy was the change in the view of what a “company” was and how it acted. Prior to the Victorian era, a commercial company was one that avoided large financial risks, innovation, and entrepreneurship, yet these became the driving forces of the Victorian economy. For example, the railroad industry drew large amounts of investors that put their faith into these new companies that were producing a product that had risky untold futures. Said by Andrew Gamble, this change in the economy was among the greatest transformations that occurred during the Victorian era. This was the time when the modern company was formed. The Wealthy and the Poor Roles in Society The structure of the Victorian economy created a large rift between the people; there were the poor and working classes (making up roughly 85% percent of the population) and then the rest being the middle and wealthy classes. The rich families played an important role in the economy; they employed many lower class people to be servants, nannies, cooks, governesses, etc. They also built large and lavish houses, comprised of detailed architecture and intricate stained glass, which in turn created more jobs. The rich were an essential portion of the Victorian economy because of their spending on goods and their large investments. This is clearly shown in Jane Eyre; Mr. Rochester is the master of a whole fleet of workers who clean, cook, and maintain the household. He also invites fellow rich guests to his estate, who pride themselves on their expensive possessions and aristocratic privileges. Child Labor Child labor in Victorian society was a notable factor in the economy. In the mid-1800s, many poor families had their children working, believing that the children had to work in order to support the family. This was more often than not a priority over education. According to David Cody, in 1840 only twenty percent of London children were receiving education. Coupled with the industrial revolution was the need for more highly laborious jobs in industrial factories, leaving many children working for hours on end in treacherous conditions. Many young women were also prostitutes. The Victorian economy was significantly impacted by this child labor.

Economy through Literature
In a multitude of Victorian novels, such as Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, bankruptcy was a theme that was commonly employed; the idea that a family would be immediately stricken of their home and all their belongings. However, according to Eric Hobsbawm, a political, social, and economic historian, bankruptcy in the Victorian era wasn’t as great of a threat as these novels made it out to be. He claims that, in reality, the Victorian man didn’t have to work too hard to make ends meet (however, some believe otherwise.) Economics in Victorian society have found their way to the present through literature, where the realities of these economic struggles are potentially invalid.
The effects of the Victorian economy also clearly show themselves in Jane Eyre, where Jane’s history and position is built upon her economic standing. This shows that economy played a large role in Victorian life altogether.


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