Historical Context

While the Rossetti family was gaining prominence in literary and artistic circles throughout England, Queen Victoria was in the early years of her long reign over the country, lasting from 1837 until her death in 1901. Because the Victorian era spanned much of the nineteenth century, it encompassed some of the greatest changes the world had witnessed up to that time. Foreign trade agreements, cultural expansion, the Industrial Revolution, widespread civil unrest, and a profusion of creative outlets all represented the social and political atmosphere of the times. This era also encompassed two prominent “ages” that occurred in the 1800s—the Age of Liberalism (1826–1850) and the Age of Imperialism (1875–1900). The former was characterized by social class battles and an effort by millions of citizens to secure a more democratic government, and the latter established empires for countries who were able to dominate small nations and gain control of world markets and raw materials. While emerging middle classes throughout the world struggled for greater recognition and independence, large governments exerted their imperialistic powers over weaker nations. Under Victoria, Great Britain expanded its colonial holdings in Africa and, in 1877, the queen was made Empress of India, thereby strengthening Britain’s presence in Asia.

The term “Victorian” often carries a negative connotation because the queen to whom it refers was a rather dowdy, pretentious woman...

(The entire section is 604 words.)