Globe and Mail (Canada): Six Victorian Inheritances We Should Cherish

Roundup: Talking About History

Canada officially celebrates Monday the birthday of Queen Victoria, a figure who casts a large shadow (not only metaphorically) over the origins of our country. The statutory holiday is our oldest secular observance, established by the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1845. During Victoria's reign, the idea of Canada took shape, and a nation from sea to sea was established in 1867, with Confederation. There's a good reason Victoria is the most common place name in Canada that is derived from a person's name.

But Victoria Day should stand for more than that, for more too than the official observance in Canada of her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II's birthday, and for much more than what it is called in some in parts of the country: May two-four, after a case of 24 beers. It should be celebrated as a symbol of the birth of many of the ideas that define our world. The list is astonishing, and the inheritance of the Victorians is perhaps the greatest influence of any age on our own.

Science: The adoption and regularization of the scientific method and the emergence of Darwinism – especially as promoted to the general public by Thomas Huxley.

Humanitarianism: Emergence of internationalism, growing partly from the anti-slavery movement and later energized by the statesman William Ewart Gladstone's articulation of the need to recognize the rights of many small nations. As Gladstone said of the downtrodden: “The sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eyes of Almighty God as can be your own.” Closer to home, Charles Dickens was a powerful advocate for the poor and for factory workers....

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