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Naval supremacy

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

'When Britain really ruled the waves, in good Queen Bess's time' was the assessment of the late Victorian age's leading satirist, WS Gilbert. (He put these words into the mouth of a spoof peer of the realm in the comic opera 'Iolanthe', which he wrote with Arthur Sullivan in 1882.)

Gilbert's Lord Mountararat got it wrong. Naval exploits in the age of Elizabeth I are regularly romanticised and their significance exaggerated.

Late 16th century England, though growing in importance under an able, crafty and ruthless monarch, remained a bit-part player on the European stage.

Britain's naval might was not openly challenged on the high seas between the battles of Trafalgar and Jutland.

Britain 'really ruled the waves' throughout Gilbert's own lifetime. He lived from 1836 to 1911, during the reigns of Victoria and her successor, Edward VII.

Britain's naval might was not openly challenged on the high seas between Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson's famous victory at Trafalgar in 1805 and the World War One Battle of Jutland with the German navy in 1916.

During the Victorian age, Britain was the world's most powerful nation. Though not always effortlessly, it was able to maintain a world order which rarely threatened Britain's wider strategic interests.

The single European conflict fought during Victoria's reign - the Crimean War of 1854 - 1856 - contrasted markedly with the 18th century, during which the British were involved in at least five major wars, none of which lasted less than seven years.

The Victorians believed that peace was a necessary pre-condition of long-term prosperity.

Victoria came to the throne during the early, frenetic phase of the world's first industrial revolution. Industrialisation brought with it new markets, a consumer boom and greater prosperity for most of the propertied classes.

It also brought rapid, and sometimes chaotic change as towns and cities expanded at a pace which precluded orderly growth.

Life expectancy at birth - in the high 30s in 1837 - had crept up to 48 by 1901.

Desperately poor housing conditions, long working hours, the ravages of infectious disease and premature death were the inevitable consequence.

The Victorians wrestled with this schizoid legacy of industrialism. The Victorian town symbolised Britain's progress and world pre-eminence, but it also witnessed some of the most deprived people, and depraved habits, in the civilised world.

Taming, and then improving, Britain's teeming cities presented a huge challenge. Mortality data revealed that, in the poorer quarters of Britain's larger cities, almost one child in five born alive in the 1830s and 1840s had died by the age of five. Polluted water and damp housing were the main causes.

Death rates in Britain as a whole remained obstinately above 20 per thousand until the 1880s and only dropped to 17 by the end of Victoria's reign.

Life expectancy at birth, in the high 30s in 1837, had crept up to 48 by 1901. One of the great scourges of the age - tuberculosis - remained unconquered, claiming between 60,000 and 70,000 lives in each decade of Victoria's reign.


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