The two categories of this group were in addition to the evangelicals or "Low Church" element in the Church of England: "Old Dissenters," dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, included Baptists, Congregationalists, Quakers, Unitarians, and Presbyterians outside Scotland; "New Dissenters" emerged in the 18th century and were mainly Methodists.
In the late 19th century, the New Dissenters mostly switched to the Liberal Party.
The result was a merging of the two groups, strengthening their great weight as a political pressure group.
The conflict marked a rare breach in the Pax Britannica, the period of relative peace (1815-1914) that existed among the Great Powers of the time, and especially in Britain's interaction with them.
On its conclusion in 1856 with the Treaty of Paris, Russia was prohibited from hosting a military presence in the Crimea.
The New Dissenters (and also the Anglican evangelicals) stressed personal morality issues, including sexuality, temperance, family values, and Sabbath-keeping.
Both factions were politically active, but until the mid-19th century, the Old group supported mostly Whigs and Liberals in politics, while the New—like most Anglicans—generally supported Conservatives.
The princely states were not affected and remained under British guidance.
Nonconformist conscience describes the moral sensibility of the Nonconformist churches—those which dissent from the established Church of England—that influenced British politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The era has also been understood more extensively as a period that possessed sensibilities and characteristics distinct from those adjacent, in which case it is sometimes dated to begin before Victoria's accession—typically from the passage of or agitation for (during the 1830s) the Reform Act 1832, which introduced a wide-ranging change to the electoral system of England and Wales.
Definitions according to a distinct sensibility or politics have also created scepticisim about the worth of the label "Victorian", though there have equally been defences of it as a marker of time.
The signing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 ended the First Opium War and gave Britain control over Hong Kong Island, but a disastrous retreat from Kabul in the same year led to the annihilation of a British army column.