Language Change Over Time- Context 19th C. Britain

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Language Change Over Time- Context
19th C. Britain
19th Century Britain
In the 19th century Britain became the world's first industrial society. It also became the first
urban society. By 1851 more than half the population lived in towns.
The population of Britain boomed during the 19th century. In 1801 it was about 9 million. By
1901 it had risen to about 41 million.
This was despite the fact that many people emigrated to North America and Australia to
escape poverty. About 15 million people left Britain between 1815 and 1914.
However there were also many immigrants. In the 1840s many people came from Ireland,
fleeing a terrible potato famine. In the 1880s the Tsar began persecuting Russian Jews.
Some fled to Britain and settled in the East End of London.
19th Century Society
In the early 19th century Britain was an oligarchy. Only a small minority of men (and no
women) were allowed to vote. The situation began to change in 1832 when the vote was
given to more men. Constituencies were also redrawn and many industrial towns were
represented for the first time. The franchise was extended again in 1867 and 1883. In 1872
the secret ballot was introduced.
However in the 19th century at least 80% of the population was working class. In order to be
considered middle class you had to have at least one servant. Most servants were female.
(Male servants were much more expensive because men were paid much higher wages).
Throughout the 19th century 'service' was a major employer of women.
In the 19th century families were much larger than today. That was partly because infant
mortality was high. People had many children and accepted that not all of them would
In the 19th century the Father was head of the family. He wife and children respected him and
obeyed him (at least that was the theory!). Until 1882 all a woman's property, even the money
she earned, belonged to her husband. Divorce was made legal in 1857 but it was very rare in
the 19th century.
A history of The Family
In the early 19th century a group of Evangelical Christians called the Clapham Sect were
active in politics. They campaigned for an end to slavery and cruel sports. They gained their
name because so many of them lived in Clapham.
Organised religion was much more important in the 19th century than it is today.
Nevertheless in 1851 a survey showed that only about 40% of the population were at church
or chapel on a given Sunday. Even allowing for those who were ill or could not make it for
some other reason it meant that half the population did not go to church. Certainly many of
the poor had little or no contact with the church. In 1881 a similar survey showed only about
1/3 of the population at church on a given Sunday. In the late 19th century organised religion
was in decline.
A history of Christianity in England

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Work in the 19th Century
During the 19th century the factory system gradually replaced the system of people working
in their own homes or in small workshops. In England the textile industry was the first to be
transformed. The changes caused a great deal of suffering to poor people.
The Industrial Revolution created a huge demand for female and child labour.…read more

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In the early 19th century only wealthy people had flushing lavatories. However in the late 19th
century they became common.
A history of toilets
In the early 19th century poor families often had to share toilets and on Sunday mornings
queues formed.
Given these horrid conditions it is not surprising that disease was common. Life expectancy
in towns was low (significantly lower than in the countryside) and infant mortality was very
high. British towns and cities suffered outbreaks of cholera in 183132 and in 184849.…read more

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Well off lived in very comfortable houses in the 19th century. (Although their servants lived in
cramped quarters, often in the attic). For the first time furniture was massproduced. That
meant it was cheaper but unfortunately standards of design fell. To us middle class 19th
century homes would seem overcrowded with furniture, ornaments and knickknacks.
However only a small minority could afford this comfortable lifestyle.
In the early 19th century housing for the poor was often dreadful. Often they lived in
'backtobacks'.…read more

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Gas fires first became common in the 1880s. Gas cookers first became common in
the 1890s.
Joseph Swan invented the electric light bulb in 1878. (Thomas Edison invented an improved
version in 1879). In the last 2 decades of the 19th century many British towns and cities
installed electric street lights. However electric light was expensive and it took a long time to
replace gas in people's homes.
In the early 19th century only rich people had bathrooms.…read more

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Middle class boys went to grammar schools. Middle class girls went to private schools were
they were taught 'accomplishments' such as music and sewing.
19th Century Games
In 1871 the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year. Also in the 1870s
some clerks and skilled workers began to have a weeks paid annual holiday. However even
at the end of the 19th century most people had no paid holidays except bank holidays.
In the early 19th century everyone had Sunday off.…read more

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The first cheap camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman. Afterwards photography
became a popular hobby.
In the late 19th century town councils laid out public parks for recreation. The first children's
playground was built in a park in Manchester in 1859.
Lastly, for those who like shopping, the first department store opened in London in 1863.
The history of sport
In the 19th century the 'modern' Christmas evolved. Before then Christmas wasn't especially
important.…read more

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The front of the skirt was flat but
it bulged outwards at the back. This was called a bustle and it disappeared in the 1890s.
From the 1840s onwards it was fashionable for women to have very small waists so they
wore corsets.
About 1800 women started wearing underwear for the first time. They were called drawers.
Originally women wore a pair of drawers i.e. they were actually two garments, one for each
leg, tied together at the top.…read more

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In 1827 a Prussian named Johann von Dreyse invented a way of combining the charge of
gunpowder and the detonator in a single cartridge.
In 1837 von Dreyse invented the first breechloading firearm, the needlegun. Over the
following decades the breech loading rifle was refined and improved.
Breech loading guns greatly increased the rate of fire. The British army began using breech
loading guns in 1865.
The range of guns was improved by rifling.…read more


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