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Predictions From 1888 Of What England Would Be Like In 1988 Are Ridiculous Yet Frighteningly Accurate

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The world has watched modern technology progress at breakneck speed for the past century. Could the British have accurately predicted these innovations a hundred years earlier?


Bob Nicholson, an aficionado of Victorian pop culture, found a 130-year-old article in an 1888 publication of Answers Magazine – which ceased publication in 1955 – featuring a competition inviting Victorian readers to predict life in Britain "a hundred years hence."

Those old enough to recall the totally awesome '80s probably saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Coming to America in theaters in 1988 and recognized Jennifer Connelly and Heather Locklear as sex symbols and fashion icons.

That same year, one of the biggest scandals in pop music history rocked the world when Milli Vanilli's two frontmen, Rob and Fab, were disqualified from the Grammy they won for Best New Artist. Instead, they were exposed as the best new con-artists for lip-syncing their way to stardom.

While the Victorians could not see any of these events making headlines by a long shot, their vision for the future came pretty darn close.

Nicholson shared some of the surprising results in a Twitter post.


Indy100 took us on a journey to the future England that Victorians imagined 30 years ago.

One reader saw a future in which commuters traveled without gas, and lighted towns "equal to noonday by the self-creating electro wire which gives a light at every division of six feet."

The ambitious reader added:

"Magneto-petrolo fires – smokeless, clean, and ever ready to light have displaced te ungainly coal. Ships, houses, railway lines and carriages are made of the unbreakable, indestructible paper, and the self-motive solaquas engine of asbestos metal."
"The phonograph enables everyone to enjoy at home concerts, operas, church services, etc;music and words, and eve theatrical performances."

Might we see these innovations further down the line?

"Invasion is made impossible by the intellectual, self-acting pyro-aqua vengeance bombs. Walking is no trouble, all bodies being rendered so light by the new inflata-vacuo puffs that they are able to walk up the water, and food is so condensed that a man can carry a month's provisions in his pocket. Space forbids further disclosures."


This prediction, titled "Poor Old England," hit a little too close to home. Brexit was inevitable, it seemed.

"England will by her very policy of national aggrandisement slowly sink into the condition of a second-rate power (somewhat like Sweden of the present day), and her fall will in the end by accelerated by those whom she has in former years befriended. In the year 1988 she will hold no weight in the Councils of Europe."


Creativity points were awarded for "The Mysterious Island City" boasting large gardens.

"Over it an uncrowned king shall reign, though the tongue of a syren shall sway St. Stephen's. The chancellor's hair, uncovered by a wig, shall hang down to the woolsack. Heat shall be drawn from clouds and light from running water. Armies shall meet in the air and vessels glide over land ans sea without either wind or steam to drive them."
"Servants shall neither speak nor see, and yet do their work well. Though Netputne threatens, the lion and eagle shall be bound together with bonds of steel."

Artificial intelligence got a Victorian shout-out.

"One Hundred years hence England will be inhabited by indolent, conceited people owing to the fast-increasing automatic machinery coming into use."

Several entries mentioned that phonographic letters would replace handwritten letters.


The rich continue to get richer, according to this reader's spot-on foresight.


The winning entry went to a Londoner named Marcus G. Morrison, who predicted several things, including the connection of Ireland and England via tunnels and bridges, the import of fresh fish from overseas preserved in salt water tanks, "clothes made from vegetable fibre," the use of submarines, and the accurate forecast of the weather.

This entry gets bonus points for brevity.


With so many of these predictions being realized, where will the next century take us? Let's hope we will have enough accomplishments to make the future population proud.

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