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Task 4. Supplementary Reading. Read the following texts and mark the facts that were not mentioned in the film.

Victoria's empire

In 1882 Britain was in the later stages of acquiring the largest empire the world had ever seen. By the end of Victoria's reign, the British empire extended over about one-fifth of the earth's surface and almost a quarter of the world's population at least theoretically owed allegiance to the 'queen empress'.

These acquisitions were not uncontested. A number of colonial wars were fought and insurgencies put down as bloodily as the colonisers considered necessary.

Many colonial administrators took on their duties with a fierce determination to do good.

It would be a gross exaggeration to claim, as many contemporaries did, that those living in a British colony felt privileged to be ruled by a people anxious to spread the virtues of an ordered, advanced and politically sophisticated Christian nation to those 'lesser breeds' previously 'without the law'.

That said, there is no gainsaying the fact that both many colonial administrators and Christian missionaries took on their colonial duties with a fierce determination to do good.

Britain's status as the financial capital of the world also secured investment inflows which preserved its immense prosperity.

One has only to walk along Liverpool's waterfront and view the exceptional 'Three Graces', (the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, Royal Liver and Cunard buildings) planned and erected in the decade or so after Victoria's death, to understand the centrality of commerce and overseas trade in making Britain the world's greatest power during the 19th century.

Liverpool's status as a World Heritage City is fitting testament to a period when Britain did indeed 'rule the waves'.

The United Kingdom's population at Victoria's accession in 1837 was about 25.5 million, eight million of whom lived in Ireland. At her death in 1901, it had risen to 41 million.

These figures, however, mask an enormous contrast. While the population of England and Wales increased by some 116% (15 million to 32.5 million), that of Ireland almost halved (eight million to 4.5 million), its population declining in every decade of the reign.

Ireland lost more than one million people to the famine in the 1840s.

This stark contrast is explained by two linked factors. Ireland, the Protestant north east around Belfast excepted, did not experience an industrial revolution in the Victorian age.

It also endured a devastating famine from 1845 - 1847, the result of a failed potato crop among a peasant population dangerously dependent on one food source for sheer existence.

Ireland lost more than one million people to the ravages of famine in the 1840s. It lost far more over the next half century to the steady drip of emigration to Britain, the Americas and Australia.

This ticking demographic timebomb had far-reaching consequences. Large numbers of Irish Catholics - both those who stayed and those who left - blamed the British government for the famine and saw in it the ultimate proof that the Act of Union had been a ruse from which Britain benefited and for which Ireland continued to suffer.

The famine extinguished any realistic hope that the Irish, like the Scots a century earlier, might come to realise the economic, commercial and cultural benefits of political union with a larger and more prosperous national partner.

Inevitably, 'home rule' campaigns grew in both numbers and violence in the second half of Victoria's reign. These also impacted massively on British politics.

'The Irish Question' dominated the last phase of the career of William Gladstone, probably Victoria's ablest - and certainly her most driven - prime minister.

His Liberal party's split on home rule for Ireland in 1886 began the long process of marginalisation of the political party which dominated much of the queen's reign. Ireland would not get home rule in Victoria's lifetime, but it set the political agenda unlike any other issue.

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/overview_victorians_01.shtml)


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