QUEEN VICTORIA  1881 - 1901 (Vc)  Reigned 1837 - 1901


The first of his major novels,The Portrait of a Lady, is written by the American-born British writer Henry James. His shorter works of fiction include the ghostly The Turn of the Screw.

The French chemist Louis Pasteur, having earlier developed the germ theory - a major break though in the advance of medical science - begins pioneer work in the use of vaccines to prevent diseases such as anthrax and rabies.

Following the humiliating defeat of the British at the Battle of Majuba Hill in the First Anglo-Boer War, the Transvaal regains its independence, lost, as we have seen, in 1877 (Vb).

The Russian Tsar, Alexander II, is assassinated, followed six months later by the assassination of the American President James Garfield, four months after his election.

The opera The Tales of Hoffmann is produced by the French composer Jacques Offenbach (1858 Va). Earlier works included Orpheus in the Underworld and La Belle Hélène.

Under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the Frenchman who built the Suez Canal, work begins on the Panama Canal in Central America. The project ends in failure in 1889.


While walking in Phoenix Park, Dublin, two government ministers, Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke, are stabbed to death by members of the Irish National Invincibles.

In North Africa, the British invade and occupy Egypt during the Anglo-Egyptian War - to safeguard control of the Suez Canal -  and the French consolidate their rule in Tunisia.

The Triple Alliance is formed between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. This pact, dominating central Europe, leads to a military alliance between France and Russia in 1894.


The adventure story Treasure Island wins fame and fortune for Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. He later writes the horror story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.


At the Berlin Conference the major European powers carve up Africa between them, taking no account of the tribal and linguistic boundaries established by the native peoples.  

The Sino-French War breaks out over French ambitions in Indochina (see 1887). It ends in 1885 following Chinese recognition of a French protectorate over North Vietnam.


The Treaty of Ancon ends the War in the Pacific in South America, begun in 1879 (Vb). Peru loses the province of Tarapaca and Chile retains the disputed mineral areas.

The French artists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac introduce the technique of Pointillism, a revolutionary extension of impressionistic painting known as Neo-Impressionism.

The English writer Samuel Butler, completes his major work, the semi-autobiographical novel called The Way of All Flesh. It was not published until a year after his death in 1903.

During the excavation of the Temple of Tanis, the English archaeologist Flinders Petrie discovers pieces of a colossal statue of Ramses II, king of Egypt from 1303 to 1213 BC.


In the First Anglo-Sudan War, the British soldier General Gordon, sent to evacuate Egyptian garrisons in the Sudan, is killed at the end of a ten-month Siege of Khartoum.

The Third Anglo-Burmese War breaks out. The British, fearing the growth of French influence in South East Asia, seize Mandalay and take control of Upper Burma.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche completes Thus Spake Zarathustra, a work containing his concept of a Superman, raised above the weak by the will to succeed.

The King of Belgium, Leopold II, founds the Congo Free State as a personal possession. By forced labour and a regime of terror he makes a huge fortune from rubber and ivory.

The first successful petrol-driven “car” with a speed of 8 m.p.h. is built by its inventor, the German Karl Benz. In the same year his fellow countryman, Gottlieb Daimler produces a highly efficient internal combustion engine.


The English librettist William Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan produce The Mikado, one of the most successful and well-known of their fourteen comic operas.

The all-American novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876 Vb), is published by the famous American author Mark Twain.



Gold is discovered at Witwatersrand in South Africa. Over the next twelve years finds are also made in parts of Australia, Klondike in the Yukon, and Anvil Creek in Alaska.  

The British prime minister William Gladstone attempts to secure home rule for Ireland, but his Irish Home Rule Bill is defeated. A second attempt in 1893 also ends in failure.

The Frenchman Auguste Rodin, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, completes The Kiss. This and other works show a remarkable new boldness in both style and expression.

The Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle publishes A Study in Scarlet, a tale that introduces the famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his worthy assistant Doctor Watson. Both featured in three other novels and over 50 short stories.

Following an invasion of Vietnam and the Sino-French War of 1884-1885, the French set up the colony of Indochina - made up of Vietnam and the neighbouring state of Cambodia.

The German physicist Heinrich Hertz proves the existence of electromagnetic waves, a finding which paves the way for the development of wireless telegraphy, radio and television.

The United Kingdom and the British Empire celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Her triumphant procession through London clearly confirms her return to popular support.


The American inventor George Eastman invents his Kodak box camera. This, and his introduction of celluloid roll film a year later, makes photography a popular pastime.

The Russian composer Rimsky Korsakov composes his symphonic suite Scheherazade, and completes the opera Prince Igor, the work of his fellow Russian Aleksandr Borodin.

The Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh paints Sunflowers,  a work which, by its vivid colour and powerful brushwork, typifies the unique style of his painting. For a while he was a close friend of the painter Paul Gauguin.


The French company working on the Panama Canal collapses amid allegations of fraud and mismanagement. The United States takes over the task, but work is not resumed until 1904.

The diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes forms the British South Africa Company, the means by which he is to annexe Mashonaland and Matabeleland (Rhodesia) for the British crown.

The Eiffel Tower, built in wrought iron by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel,  is completed in time for the World Fair of this year. 324m in height, it is the tallest structure in the world.

The English writer and journalist Jerome K. Jerome publishes Three Men in a Boat, the best known of his humorous essays. He later wrote a sequel, Three Men on the Brummel.


In the United States, a rising of Sioux Indians is ruthlessly put down at the Battle of Wounded Knee. This marks the end of Sioux resistance and 350 years of Indian Wars.

Determined to direct foreign policy himself and to build a fleet to rival that of Britain, the German Emperor Wilhelm II dismisses his Chancellor, Prince Bismarck, the man who had accomplished the unification of Germany.


The Principles of Economics, a textbook produced by the English economist Alfred Marshall, has a marked influence on the development of economics in the 20th century.


The French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec begins to gain fame for his posters depicting  life in the cafés, cabarets and brothels of Montmartre, the Bohemian quarter of Paris.

Thomas Edison demonstrates the Kinetoscope, a peep-show device allowing one person to view moving pictures. In 1895 the Lumière Brothers take this development one step further.


In the East Indies, the Dutch anatomist Eugène Dubois discovers the remains of Java Man and claims they are the “missing link” in the evolutionary chain between apes and humans.


Women in New Zealand are given the right to vote, the first nation to do so. In other countries, notably Britain, there was a long struggle before this right was granted.

In South Africa the First Matabele War breaks out against the activities of the British South Africa Company.  A British victory secures the territory of Rhodesia for the British crown.


The Czech composer Antonín Dvorák, on a visit to the United States, composes his New World Symphony, and the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius completes his Karelia Suite.


Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, is wrongly convicted of treason and deported. This miscarriage of justice leads to a bitter dispute known as the Dreyfus Affair.  

A Franco-Russian Alliance is formed against the Triple Alliance of 1882. In 1907, together with the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain, it becomes the Triple Entente.


George Bernard Shaw, the Irish critic and playwright, produces his first major work Arms and the Man. A prolific writer, many of his plays highlight the social problems of the day.

The French composer Claude Debussy produces L'Après-midi d'un faune, a work which, by its original form and musical innovations, paves the way for the music of the 20th Century.

The British writer Rudyard Kipling begins his Jungle Books, one of a number of works written for children. He also wrote a  large  number of poems and short stories, many based on his time spent living and working in India, his birthplace.

The First Sino-Japanese War is followed in 1895 by the Treaty of Shimonoseki. By it, Japan gains Formosa (Taiwan), and China agrees to recognise Korea’s independence.


The Armenian or Hamidian Massacres are carried out by Turks and Kurds, the first of many vicious attacks upon the Armenians, a Christian minority living in eastern Asia Minor.


In Africa the territory owned by the British South African Company is formed into a state and named Rhodesia in honour of the founder of the company, English-born Cecil Rhodes.

A rebellion breaks out against Spanish rule in Cuba, organised by the revolutionary philosopher José Marti. As we shall see, it leads to the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in making radio communication over a mile. By the end of this period, 1901, he had made radio contact across the Atlantic.

The German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovers X-rays, a finding  which proves of enormous value, especially in medicine. This is followed by the discovery of radioactivity, made by the French physicist Henri Becquerel.

The Time Machine is written by the English science-fiction writer H.G. Wells. Also of this period is The War of the Worlds. Apart from his novels, he wrote many short stories.

The first performance is given of The Importance of Being Earnest, the best-known play of the Irish writer and dandy Oscar Wilde. He was a supporter of the aesthetic movement.

The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite in 1866 (Vb), creates the Nobel Prizes, awarded annually to those who have “conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.

In Paris, the Lumière Brothers, having studied Edison’s Kinetoscope, develop the means of projecting motion pictures onto a screen and open the world’s first cinema, with films of their own making. It marks the beginning of the Film Industry.


Following the failure of the Jameson Raid, an ill-timed attack upon the Boer republic of the Transvaal, a revolt against British rule in Matabeleland leads to The Second Matabele War.


The Italians, having invaded Ethiopia from their colony of Eritrea, are defeated at the

Battle of Adowa and forced to recognise Ethiopian independence later this year.   

The Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov, having gained a reputation as a writer of short stories, produces The Seagull, the first of his highly successful works for the stage.

In the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War the British seize Kumasi and make the Ashanti Kingdom a British protectorate. The territory becomes part of the Gold Coast five years later.

The opera La Bohème is produced by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. This and his later works, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Turandot, bring him world-wide fame.

A System of Synthetic Philosophy, the major work of the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, is completed. It attempts to apply evolutionary theory to all fields of knowledge.


A revolt against Turkish rule on the island of Crete leads to the Greco-Turkish War. Greek irregular forces invade the Ottoman Empire, but are severely defeated in a matter of weeks.


Alarmed by the anti-Semitism aroused in the Dreyfus Affair, the Austro-Hungarian Theodor Herzl founds the Zionist movement, aimed at re-establishing a Jewish State in Palestine.


Cyrano de Bergerac is the hero of a romantic play by the French poetic dramatist Edmond Rostand. The exploits of this long-nosed, chivalrous soldier and his love for the beautiful Roxanne have remained ever popular.

The German composer and conductor Richard Strauss composes his symphonic poem Don Quixote. Later works include the operas Salome, Elektra  and Der Rosencavalier.


In the Second Anglo-Sudan War an Anglo-Egyptian Army, under the command of General Kitchener, defeats the Sudanese tribesmen (the Dervishes) at the Battle of Omdurman.  

A territorial dispute in the Sudan over control of the River Nile - the Fashoda Incident - almost leads to war between Britain and France. A settlement is eventually reached.

The Spanish-American War breaks out. Cuba gains a measure of  independence and Spain is forced to give up Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States.

In the thriving trading centre of Hong Kong, acquired by the British in 1842, a large area known as the New Territories is leased from the Chinese for a period of 99 years.

The scientists Marie and Pierre Curie discover two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, in pitchblende ore, and over the next 3 years isolate a small quantity of pure radium.


In South Africa the Second Anglo-Boer War breaks out. The Boers lay siege to Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley, and British hopes of a speedy victory are soon dashed.

The Enigma Variations gains fame for the English composer Edward Elgar. He is perhaps better known, however, for his Pomp and Circumstance March, Land of Hope and Glory.


The Boxer Rebellion in China, in which foreign legations are besieged and thousands of Christian converts murdered, is quickly crushed after the sending of an international force.


The English archaeologist Arthur Evans begins digging at Knossis in Crete and discovers a Bronze Age civilisation (the Minoan Civilisation) that predates that of Mycenae in Greece.

A German decision to increase the size of its navy alarms Britain and sparks off an arms race between the two nations, a prelude to the First World War of 1914-18.


Queen Victoria dies at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on the 22nd January after a brief and painless illness. She reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days, the longest of any British monarch up to an including George VI. (Queen Elizabeth II surpassed that length of time on the 9th September 2015.)


Victoria: detail, by the German artist Bertha Muller (1848-1925), after a portrait by the Austrian portrait painter Heinrich von Angeli (1840-1925), 1899 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons: Author: Ipankonin – https://commons.wikimedia.org.





xxxxxThe fall of the Conservative government in the election of April 1880 was a great disappointment to Queen Victoria. As we have seen, together with her man servant, John Brown, the prime minister Benjamin Disraeli had been largely responsible for gradually easing - though never removing -  the profound feeling of grief she had felt following the death of her husband Albert in 1861. Gradually she had returned to her sovereign duties, heartened by Disraeli’s vision of Britain’s role in the world, and flattered by her proclamation as Empress of India, the result of his endeavours.

xxxxxThe return of William Gladstone as prime minister so filled her with alarm that she at first declared that she would have nothing to do with him. She was gently but firmly persuaded to act as a constitutional monarch must, but throughout the remainder of her reign she showed her opposition towards him. In 1884, for example, she objected to his Reform Act, and in 1885 she publicly blamed him for the death of General Gordon during the Siege of Khartoum. And at one time she was found guilty of passing confidental state papers over to his political opponents! When he died in 1898 she could not bring herself to voice any feeling of regret. She was convinced that the government of this “mischievous firebrand”, dominated by Radicals, had been a real threat to the safety of the nation.

xxxxxA passionate and strong willed woman to the end, Victoria somewhat feared the advance of popular democracy, totally opposed the idea of female suffrage, and had very little real understanding of the working class, the bulk of her nation. However, by the 1880s she had clearly regained the affection of her people. The very length of her reign - spanning a time of much political and social change and unrest - gave her a symbolic value of continuity and stability. This, together with her deep sense of duty and the propriety of her family life, both of which helped to restore dignity and respectability to the monarchy, greatly enhanced her standing amongst her people. Proof enough of her overwhelming popularity was the enormous wealth of affection shown to her at her jubilee celebrations of 1887 and 1897. She was seen as a symbol of Britain’s greatness.

xxxxxThe Queen died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight on the 22nd January 1901 following a brief and painless illness, and she was buried alongside her beloved Albert in the mausoleum at Frogmore, near Windsor. Among those present at her death were Edward, the Prince of Wales, who succeeded her as Edward VII, and her grandson the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, the man who was to lead the German nation against Britain in the First World War of 1914-1918. Victoria and Albert had nine children, eight of whom married members of Europe’s royal families. These family links earned her the affectionate title “the grandmother of Europe”.

xxxxxColonial problems, particularly in Africa, dominated the last two decades of her reign, and the Anglo-Boer Wars marred her final years, raising concern as to Britain’s ability to maintain its hold over its far-flung Empire. And also overshadowing these years was the continued unrest in Ireland, brought into focus by Gladstone’s attempts to introduce home rule for the island. But the most serious political development of the time lay simmering below the surface: the gradual division of Europe into two armed camps, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. National, economic and imperial rivalry between these two power blocs was destined to plunge the world into a deadly, costly conflict just a few years after the end of Victoria’s long and eventful reign.

xxxxxThe last twenty years of the 19th century were noted for the important advances they brought in science, medicine and technology, and for their wealth of writers, artists and composers. Among the great personalities of the time were scientists Louis Pasteur, Thomas Edison, Wilhelm Roentgen, Guglielmo Marconi and Marie and Pierre Curie; engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, writers Mark Twain, Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekhov; artists Auguste Rodin, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec; and composers Jean Sibelius, Claude Debussy, Giaomo Puccini, Richard Strauss and Edward Elgar.

xxxxxThe multi-figure memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace was unveiled in 1911. It was designed by Aston Webb (1849-1930), the English architect responsible for the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1891, and the large figures were the work of the English sculptor Thomas Brock (1847-1922).









































































Snippets During VictoriaC reign Synopsis of Victoria Reign (Vc)


Timewise Traveller is a free non-profit resource. However, if you have found it of interest/value and would like to show your appreciation, the author would welcome any contribution to Cancer Research UK.

To visit our Cancer Research page and make a small donation, click