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William Morris: Life and Times


par Canesugar et Skaara



Morris’s life

Political events

Social events

Art and architecture




The first or great Reform Act is passed. This climax of a period of political reform extends the vote to a further 500,000 people and redistributes Parliamentary seats on a more equitable basis

1830-1832 : First major cholera epidemic

Royal Commission on the Poor Laws appointed.

Allotment's Act - authorised Vestries to let small portions of land, from a quarter of an acre up to an acre, to industrious cottagers for cultivation. The rental income was to be used to buy winter fuel for the poor.





The Chartist Movement: demands for electoral reform (e.g. secret ballot) and universal male suffrage – 1st Petition

Abolition of slavery

Factories Regulation Act, preventing the employment of children less than 9 or for more than 48 hours for those less than 11





The government acts against 'illegal oaths' in such unionism, resulting in the Tolpuddle Martyrs

Poor Law Amendment Act (14 Aug.) starts union workhouses

Poor Law Commissioners sworn in on August 23rd

Robert Owen founds the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union: action by government against 'illegal oaths' in unionism results in failure of GNCTU and transportation of six 'Tolpuddle Martyrs'to Australia.

Houses of Parliament burnt down.




MELBOURNE P.M. (W) (Apr.)Parliament passes the Municipal Reform Act, requiring members of town councils to be elected by ratepayers and councils to publish their financial accounts

1835-1836 : Commercial boom: 'little' railway mania






Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths Act

Lowering of the Stamp Duty on newspapers

Enforcement of the Poor Law Amendment Act





20 June, Queen Victoria succeeds to throne following death of William IV


Government School of Design

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist.




The People's Charter drafted

Anti-Corn Law Association (Manchester)





The Chartist Movement: demands for electoral reform (e.g. secret ballot) and universal male suffrage

1st Chartist Petition

First Opium War begins
British Army in Afghanistan

Anti-Corn Law League;





February; Queen marries Prince AlbertThe penny post is instituted






Peel Prime Minister (Tory)

The first British Census recording the names of the populace is undertaken





2nd Chartist Petition

Income Tax introduced for 3 years (7d in the £ for incomes over £150 p.a.)








Carlyle, Past and Present
--> à partir d’une reconstitution méticuleuse et exacte du passé, illustration du présent et de l’avenir



Bank Charter Act

Factory Act limits working hours to women (extension of the 1833 Factories Regulation Act)

A further Poor Law Amendment Act improved numerous details of the 1834 Act. One of its most significant changes was a revision to the bastardy laws whereby mothers were granted the civil right of claim against the putative father, regardless of whether she was in receipt of poor relief.

The Outdoor Relief Prohibitory Order issued by the PLC in December, prohibited all outdoor relief to able-bodied men and women apart from in exceptional circumstances.






1845-50 : Potato famine in Ireland

Andover workhouse scandal : conditions were so bad that inmates were revealed to be fighting over scraps of rotten meat left on bones they were crushing.





RUSSELL P.M. (W) (July);

Repeal of the Corn Laws
An Act granted settlement after five years' residence in a parish.




Student at Malborough College

As far as my school-instruction went, I think I may fairly say I learned next to nothing there, for indeed next to nothing was taught”

-->“I set myself eagerly to studying [everything] that had any history to it, and so perhaps learned a good deal especially as there was a good library at the school to which I had access”.

-->cf les connaissances et l’érudition du vieux Hammond


Ten-Hours Act : 60-hour working week instead of 69.Report on Welsh education


Charlotte Bronte , Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights

Disraeli Tancred

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto



3rd Chartist Petition

Public Health Act

Cholera epidemic

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (The Pre-Raphaelite movement was intended to redefine art)

• Dante Gabriel Rossetti
• William Michael Rossetti
(1829-1919; art critic and D.G.'s brother)
• James Collinson (1825?-81; painter)
• William Holman Hunt
(1827-1910; painter)
• John Everett Millais
(1829-96; painter)
• Thomas Woolner
(1825-92; a sculptor)
• Frederic George Stephens
(1828-1907; art critic)









Death of Robert Peel (2.07)


The Pre-Raphaelite magazine The Germ appeared. (4 issues)





Catholic hierarchy in England restored

Great Exhibition (backed by Prince Albert ; Crystal Palace)

The first volume of Ruskin's Stones of Venice was published




DERBY P.M. (T) (Feb.);ABERDEEN P.M. (Coal.) (Dec.)

The Poor Law Board's Outdoor Relief Regulation Orders in August and December broadened the conditions under which outdoor relief could be provided.

Houses of Parliament in London completed



Morris and Burne-Jones became friends (Oxford)


Vaccination against smallpox is made compulsory





Crimean War (1854-56)



Dickens, Hard Times


Starts writing poetry



1855 – 1885 : High Victorian Gothic



Foundation of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine (12 issues)






Morris, Burne-Jones, Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelites painted the Oxford Union frescoes.


Matrimonial Causes Act





DERBY P.M. (W) (Feb.)
Indian mutiny and India Act

Workhouse Visiting Society founded by Louisa Twining




Morris married Jane Burden

PALMERSTON P.M. (W) (June); Disraeli's Reform Bill (Feb.)


1859-1860 : Red House at Bexleyheath is the building which started the Arts and Crafts movement. It was originally designed for newly-weds William and Janey Morris (architect: Philipp Webb)

Charles Darwin ‘Origin of the Species’



Russell's Reform Bill

Anglo-French 'Cobden' treaty and Gladstone's budget codify and extend principles of free trade


c. 1860-1910 : The arts and crafts movement was made up of English designers and writers who wanted a return to well-made, handcrafted goods instead of mass-produced, poor quality machine-made items.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss


Foundation of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co (« The Firm »)

Death of Prince Albert from typhoid






Limited liability Act provides vital stimulus to accumulation of capital in shares


International Exhibition





The Salvation Army is founded

George Elgar Hicks, Woman’s Mission : a triptych (Guide to Childhood / Companion to Manhood / Comfort of Old Age)

--> the 3 main roles of a woman (mother, wife and carer) which we find in NFN : Nowhere remains a male paradise / nothing has really changed in the utopian romance







Mrs. Gaskell's Wives and Daughters



Death of Palmerston (Oct.)
RUSSELL P.M. (W) (Oct.)

The Union Chargeability Act based each parish's contribution to the union's funds on its rateable value not how many paupers it had. The union also became the area of settlement and the period of residency required for irremovability was reduced to one year.
The Lancet exposed the terrible conditions that existed in many London workhouse infirmaries.

Ford Madox Brown's Work first exhibited

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland



Russell-Gladstone moderate Reform Bill fails

Hyde Park RiotsCholera epidemic





Derby and Disraeli's Second Reform Bill doubles the franchise to two million (extension aux ouvriers qualified)

Dominion of Canada Act making Canada the first dominion of the British Empire

Representation of the People Act (5.08)




He began studying and translating Icelandic sagas
The Earthly Paradise: A Poem

DISRAELI P.M. (C) (Feb.); GLADSTONE P.M. (L) (Dec.)Trades Union Congress formed






Trade & politics : The Suez Canal is opened

Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Irish Church Act






Elementary Education Act (Forster) introduced compulsory elementary education administered by local School Boards.

Married Women's Property Act extends the rights of women in marriage




He visited Iceland

Criminal Law Amendment Act

University Tests Act abolished Trade Union Act legalizes TUs






Voting by secret ballot was introduced.


G. Eliot's Middlemarch

Lewis Carroll Alice Through the Looking Glass



Economic slump in Europe











Dissolution of the Firm

Disraeli purchases a controlling interest for Britain in the Suez Canal

Public Health Act set up nationwide system of rural and urban sanitary authorities.

Trade Union Act

Pure Food and Drugs Act

Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act

Employers' and Workmen's Act

Agricultural depression deepens

Trades Disputes Act legalizes picketing
1875-76 R. A. Cross's Conservative social reforms passed




Morris entered politics

Victoria proclaimed Empress of India
massacres of Christians in Turkish Bulgaria provoke anti-Turkish campaign in Britain, led by Gladstone

Education Act (Sandon)

The Divided Parishes and Poor Law

Amendment Act gave the Local Government Board new powers to reorganise and dissolve unions.







Foundation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, to counteract the highly destructive 'restoration' of medieval buildings being practised by many Victorian architects



The Decorative Arts: Their Relation to Modern Life and Progress


Factory and Workshops Act


Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native



Irish Land League

Trade depression





GLADSTONE P.M. (L) (Apr.);

Employers' Liability Act





Disraeli died

2nd Irish Land Act (Gladstone)1881-86 : Essor du socialisme brit.

The first electric streetlights appeared.
The first houses were lit by electricity






Married Women's Property Act enables women to buy, own, and sell property, and to keep their own earnings.

Education Act (Mundella)


Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island


He joined the Socialist Democratic Federation

Fabian Society founded

“The object of the Fabian Society is to persuade the English people to make their political constitution thoroughly democratic and so to socialize their industry as to make the livelihood of the people entirely independent of private capitalism” G.B. Shaw

“The Fabian Society, far from desiring to abolish wages wishes to secure them for everybody” G.B. Shaw

illegal and Corrupt Practices Act

Once-a-week fish dinners allowed in workhouses.

Bankruptcy Act (Chamberlain) interdit l’emprisonnement pour dettes




The Socialist League

Art and Socialism: A Lecture Delivered before the Secular Society of Leicester.

Delivers a speech : Useful Work versus Useless Toil


Representation of the People Act (6.12)Third Reform Act extends the franchise (suffrage quasi-universel)

1884-85 Reform and Redistribution Acts






Redistribution of Seats Act

Working Class Dwelling Act : donna plus de pouvoirs aux autorités locales pour éradiquer les taudis





GLADSTONE P.M. (L) (Feb.); SALISBURY P.M. (C) (Aug.)

1st Home Rule Bill for Ireland (Gladstone)

Split in the Liberal Party



Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


The Aims of Art

Independent Labour party founded

November, 13th 1887: "Bloody Sunday" (riots) Morris took part in the demonstrations which in fact showed how strong the state was and how weak the workers were.

Queen Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee





A Dream of John Ball

Local Government Act (Goschen)

The County Councils' Act establishes representative county based authorities

Scottish Labour Party founded

1888-92 : Développement du Néo-Unionisme


Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (publication US)

--> utopia : scene takes place in 2000

--> Absolute nonsense for Morris since no historical dimension in the text : smooth transition between 19th century / 20th century.



Fabian Society Essays (doctrines et methods de la société)

London dock strike


Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (publication GB)


Foundation of Kelmscott Press

News from Nowhere published in the USA without Morris’s permission






News From Nowhere : first British edition


Factory and Workshops (Consolidation) Act
Education Act


Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles






Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes



Second Home Rule Bill rejected by the Lords

Formation of the Independent Labour Party






ROSEBERY P.M. (L) (March)



Time Machine H. G. Wells






The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde


Morris died at Kelmscott House on 3 October







Queen Victoria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee

Voluntary Schools Act; Employers' Liability Act

















Labour Representation Committee (LRC) created

Elementary Education Act


Joseph CONRAD, Lord Jim



Death of Queen Victoria; Edward Prince of Wales succeeds as Edward VII.

Factory and Workshops Act





Roland MARX , Histoire de la GB, Armand Colin, Collection U, 1985
Kenneth o Morgan, the Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, OUP

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