The Victorian era of the United Kingdom was the period of Queen Victoria's rule from June 1837 to 1901. This was a long period of prosperity for the British people and also of calamity for many of its dominion subjects, as profits gained from the overseas British Empire, as well as from industrial improvements at home, allowed a large and educated middle class to develop. The era is often characterized as a long period of peace and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation. The population of England had almost doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901. In the early part of the era, the House of Commons was dominated by the two parties: the Whigs and the Tories. From the late 1850s onwards, the Whigs became the Liberals even as the Tories became known as the Conservatives.
Victorian Britain, like the periods before it, was interested in theatre and the arts. Music, drama, and opera were widely attended. There were, however, other forms of entertainment. Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos was wildly popular during the period: so much so that evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking, and prostitution.
Another great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London. During the same period, London's water supply network was expanded and improved, and gas reticulation for lighting and heating was introduced in the 1880s.
During the Victorian era, science grew into the discipline it is today. In addition to the increasing professionalism of university science, many Victorian gentlemen devoted their time to the study of natural history. This study of natural history was most powerfully impacted by Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution first published in his book "On the Origins of Species" in 1859. Although initially developed in the early years of the 19th century, gas lighting became widespread during the Victorian era in industry, homes, public buildings and the streets.
The Victorian era became notorious for employing young children in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps. The children of the poor were expected to help towards the family budget, often working long hours in dangerous jobs and low wages. Agile boys were employed by the chimney sweeps; small children were employed to scramble under machinery to retrieve cotton bobbins; and children were also employed to work in coal mines to crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. Children as young as three were put to work. In coal mines children began work at the age of five and generally died before the age of 25. Many children (and adults) worked 16 hour days.