England in 1841 was at the very dawn of the Victorian Age. It was the decade that would come to be known as 'The Hungry Years,' as industrialization spread and the lower classes became more firmly established. During the years preceding, the gradual spread of industry had led farmers away from the countryside, and eliminated at single strokes the jobs of countless workers with such inventions as the power loom and the combine. These people found themselves competing for few jobs in what was becoming a highly mechanized economy.
A middle class of merchants was formed out of the aristocracy who found their taxes dwindling and the lower class that aspired to more. Business ventures such as the South Seas Bubble company collapsed, but other commercial ventures, such as the China Tea Trade, flourished. However, even for these businesses, times were changing, as the steam ship took over from the mighty and glorious clipper ship, queen of the seas.
Ideologically, this was a troubled time, as a crisis of faith in God resulted from the many discoveries of science. Soon educated men divided themselves into two principal schools: Utilitarians, the followers of Jeremy Bentham, who based everything upon the utility of objects, and who managed a quick reform of the Civil Service; and the followers of Coleridge, firm believers in faith.
Although we have a lingering impression of the Victorian Age as a repressive repressed society, it was one of the most vital periods of English history, lively and full of controversy. Belief in technology was at its height, and the superstitions of magic had been swept away, reserved for gothic horror novels. Medical science was improving by leaps and bounds. Living conditions were terrible for many in 1841, and it was not long before Marx produced his Communist Manifesto, but England was by that time well on the way to becoming the dominant nation in the world, and London the jewel in the crown of the British Empire.