Queen Victoria’s long reign (1837-1901) saw Britain at the height of its power and influence; she was head of an Empire which stretched around the globe. Advances in transport and manufacturing output added to Britain’s economic power. People had more choice of goods and foods and there was a growing middle class who could afford to buy new products, services and entertainments. The upper classes were concerned to protect their property and maintain public order; a national police force was established and criminals were treated severely.
The lives of poor people were very hard and the threat of the workhouse hung over many families. Many worked very long hours, in often difficult and dangerous conditions. During this period, legislation was gradually brought in to protect child workers and improve some working conditions. Despite advances in other areas, medical knowledge was still very poor. Child mortality was very high and people were vulnerable to epidemics such as cholera.