The Victorians were dynamic, hugely inventive and deeply caring
Our image of the Victorians is too often of a repressed, conservative, starchy, uptight and blinkered people. They were allegedly so prudish they even covered their table legs, were harsh to women and children, vicious to those who refused to conform and determined to entrench privilege.
In fact, such an impression could not be more wrong. The Victorians were people of vision, insatiably intellectually curious, wedded to the idea of progress and determined to improve their own lives and those of others.
They were the first meritocrats, opening up opportunities to those with the brains and qualities to exploit them rather than them being awarded simply according to social status.
Harnessed to phenomenal intellectual, physical and moral energy, and often (albeit in an age of profound religious doubt) informed by a deep sense of Christian purpose, their vision helped transform Britain from a fundamentally medieval country when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 to a startlingly modern one within just four or five decades.