When considering the Victorian era there is a typical reference to the zeitgeist that thought that human society and technology were inevitably progressing for the better, a sort of manifest destiny that was seemingly confirmed by the ongoing industrial revolution. This was promoted by the peace and relative stability experienced in Europe at that time, and strength of the British Empire, which had at this time reached its zenith.

What name is given to this strain of thought (either within the United Kingdom or Europe generally)?

  • Relative stability in Europe? In Britain, perhaps. Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 16:18
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    The closest I would think of is simply "evolution" or "progress." However, I would caution believing that there was a monolithic belief in never-ending progress. At the same time (and the "Victorian Era" is a LONG time), many were worried about social degeneration or atavism.
    – rougon
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:24
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    (1) is there any evidence that this belief existed? (2) Is there any reason to believe that people identified this belief? (3) Is there any evidence that people found a need to give a name to this belief? "there is a typical reference" is a convoluted way of saying, "it is said" - I've pledged to downvote any question that references sources without citing them. doing history with concealed sources is a bit like playing poker against someone who has an infinite number of decks of cards in his sleeve.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 19:47
  • @rougon I think "progress" is the correct term. Though it seems a little insipid, there nonetheless seems to be a clear philosophical movement behind it. However, I seem to be conflating Post-Enlightenment thought with the Victorian era specifically in relation to that (and it wasn't exclusive to the UK). Also, towards the end of the Victorian era social progress got increasingly complicated by the consequences of industrialisation (notably Marxism), but that term catches the essence of it.
    – Stumbler
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 21:24
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    The term was only coined a few decades later, but "Whig [interpretation of] history" may be the phrase you're looking for: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whig_history Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 7:56

2 Answers 2


It was just known as the Victorian Age, according to the highlighted source on the Victorian Era.

"Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was the first English monarch to see her name given to the period of her reign whilst still living."

The associations with "rapid change and developments in nearly every sphere" follow.


As far as imperial strength was concerned, people used the term 'splendid isolation' in Britain. In France, the economic and technological advancement there was called 'la belle epoque'.

I can't think of a term which specifically means a belief in never ending progress, sorry.

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    re: "people used the term 'splendid isolation' in Britain", Care to give some examples? Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:55
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    "splendid isolation" was a description of British (non-)involvement in Europe - nothing to do with industrial/social progress
    – user13123
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 23:22
  • It was also about imperial strength...
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:27
  • rationality? Optimism? Not being a member of modern america?
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 0:26

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