It seems as though the Victorian Era was an uniquely exciting nexus of cause and effect that has forever shaped western civlization. Although this can be said of many times before and since none of those so fundamentally shaped man's perception of himself in the universe. It was here that man first saw his potential to become as gods. This fundamental shift in perception should not be underestimated.
What were the causes of this egomaniacal weltanschauung? For the most part, it came as a result from some rather radical ideas from a few influential people; Darwin, Locke, Smith, Marx, Freud, et.al. Following in the footsteps of Newton, the secrets of the world (real or imagined) were being uncovered. Along with advances in medicine, man became the shaper of his own destiny.
The ramifications of this are being felt to this day. Poets and philosophers of Victorian Europe already referred to the death of God. The church had to find ways to reconcile its dogma with these powerful new ideas and the industrial revolution was well on its way.
source: The Victorian Web