The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901 (Victoria's reign lasted for 63 years and 216 days, the longest in British history up to the present day).
The era was a long period of peace, known as the Pax Britannica, and economic, colonial, and industrial consolidation, temporarily disrupted by the Crimean War and the Boer War; it was also a long period of prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain.
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.
Desperately poor housing conditions, long working hours, the ravages of infectious disease and premature death were the inevitable consequence. 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.
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.
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.
The Victorian political structure was far from democratic. At the beginning of Victoria's reign, about a fifth of adult males were entitled to vote. That proportion increased, to one-third and two-thirds respectively. No women could legally vote in parliamentary elections until almost 18 years after Victoria's death. Women did, however, play an increasingly influential role from the 1870s onwards.
If not democratic, the political system was becoming increasingly representative. Britain managed to modernize its political system without succumbing to the political revolutions that afflicted virtually all of its European competitors.
Text from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era