Portrait Of Britain: 1900

Asa Briggs completes our Portrait of Britain series with a survey of the islands at the beginning of the 20th century.

There was considerable doubt on January 1st, 1900, as to whether the country was beginning a new century or whether there was still another year to go. More time-conscious than their ancestors, many of the last of the Victorians were not impressed by the German Kaiser’s decree that they were now living in the twentieth century. The first leader in The Times began with the words ‘The New Year, the last of the nineteenth century’. Nonetheless, readers’ opinions in the correspondence columns were divided, while the Queen herself, near her eighty-first birthday, did not note the change of century in her journal or her letters either in 1900 or in 1901. Years before she had given her name to an age and later, unlike most monarchs, to an ‘ism’, and for most of her subjects it was to be the end of her long reign in January 1901 that was to stand out as the important date. ‘The Victorian age is over’, the Daily Telegraph wrote, then, ‘the supreme woman in the world is gone … Never, never was there loss like this.’ The Annual Register, looking for precedents, had to go back to King Alfred.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.