19th century

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Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical)

The 19th century lasted from 1801 to 1900 in the Gregorian calendar (using the Common Era system of year numbering).

Historians sometimes define a "Nineteenth Century" historical era stretching from 1815 (The Congress of Vienna) to 1914 (The outbreak of the First World War); alternatively, Eric Hobsbawm defined the "Long Nineteenth Century" as spanning the years 1789 to 1914.

During this century, the Spanish, Portuguese, and Ottoman empires began to crumble and the Holy Roman and Mughal empires ceased.

Following the Napoleonic Wars, the British Empire became the world's first hyperpower controlling one quarter of the World's population and one third of the land area. It enforced a Pax Britannica, encouraged trade, and battled rampant piracy.

Slavery was greatly reduced around the World. Following a successful slave revolt in Haiti, Britain forced the Barbary pirates to halt their practice of kidnapping and enslaving Europeans, banned slavery throughout its domain and charged its navy with ending the global slave trade. Slavery was then abolished in Russia, America, and Brazil.

Electricity, steel, and petroleum fueled a Second Industrial Revolution which enabled Germany, Japan, and the US to become Great Powers that raced to create empires of their own. However, Russia and Qing Dynasty China failed to keep pace with the other world powers which led to massive social unrest in both empires.



Queen Victoria, Queen of the British Empire from 1837 to the end of the century. The period during her rule was known as the Victorian era

In 1801, the Irish parliament voted to merge Ireland with England, thus creating the United Kingdom. Ireland remained under total Brittish controll untill 1922, when the majority of the Irish counties, and the majority of the Irish population, broke away from England, forming the Irish Free State. The norththern counties remianed loyal to Brittish controll, and to this day remain seperate from the rest of Ireland as Northern Ireland.

On May 17th, 1814 Norway left Swedish controll and declared independence. It was forced, however, to continue a personal union with Sweden, but retained its liberal constitution. Growing Norwegian nationalism and pride would continue throughout the century, until the nation finaly obtained full independence in 1905.

The start of the 19th century was also marked by a struggle between France and Britain and their allies for control of Europe and the world during the Napoleonic Wars, with Napoleon being finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

Also in 1815, Greenland officially left Norwegian control and entered Danish control.

In 1821, Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire, but would not win the ensuing war untill 1829.

The Victorian era of Great Britain is considered the height of the British industrial revolution and the apex of the British Empire. It is often defined as the years from 1837 to 1901, when Queen Victoria reigned. The revolution led to the rise of railways across the country and massive leaps forward in engineering. The London Underground was opened, and incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets.

There were many revolutions in Europe in 1848, which had been influenced by the French Revolution. Furthermore, the later end of the century was dominated by what many call the New Imperialism, which was the rapid acquisition of colonies worldwide by European powers, most noteworthy is the Scramble for Africa.

Many countries in Europe underwent an Industrial Revolution, especially Germany, that spread elsewhere by the end of the century, with factories and railway lines built all over the continent.

Although the romantic influence is present throughout the Victorian Era, there is a visible decline by mid-century: many scientific discoveries in part effected by the industrial Revolution, as Darwin's evolutionism (The Origin of Species, 1859) and French philosopher Auguste Comte inaugurate a new rationalism (positivism), whose literary spinoff is naturalism. Its theory, dominated by determinism and genetics emphasize the importance of the environment in shaping man and the new French novels, as impressionism in art reflect the new vogue.

The Republic of Italy was founded on March 17, 1861. King Victor Emmanuel II succeeded in uniting the Italian states of the peninsula into one nation. Count Camillo Benso di Cavour and specifically Giuseppe Garibaldi played a major role in architecting the unification. The city of Rome remained under Papel controll untill 1870, when the Italian Army made its way into the Vatican State throught the Breach of Porta Pia. Rome was annexed, but the Pope refused to sign a treaty and sought refuge in Castel Gandolfo from where he launched his interdetto, forbidding Italian Catholics from participating in political life on pain of excommunication. The Trentino and Sudtyrol would be annexed in the following century, after 1918, thereby ending the unification process as planned by the Savoy Dinasty under Victor Immanuel II.

In 1871, the German Empire was formed from Prussia and the North German Confederation by Otto von Bismarck. The powerful nation would last until 1918, and would become known as the Second Reich. Bismark acquired many new provinces in a series of short and diplomatically ingenious wars. He allied with Austria to defeat Denmark, and seize the Schleswig-Holstein area. He started and won the Austro-Prussian War, but only to get Italy on the side of Germany. Prussia then entered the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), completely crushing France. As a final insult to the French, Wilhelm I was sworn in as German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles, in the heart of Paris. The German Empire would continue to thrive until the end of WWI, when France obtained retribution in the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano gave independence to Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. Bulgaria was also made an autonomous principality. This was all possible due to the Russian defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War 1877-1878. The Congress of Berlin, held later that same year, would once again increase Muslim power in the regions, lightening the Russian victory.


The driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, 1869, marking the first rail connection across the United States

The United States began expansion across the North American Continent, beginning with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This expansion was asserted to be the Manifest Destiny of the country. This was accompanied by the subjugation and dispersal of Native Americans. The expansion was accelerated by the building of transcontinental railroads, and growing numbers of immigrants. On January 24 1848, gold was discovered in California, leading to the largest of many gold and silver "rushes" throught the century. Millions of people flocked to mines and cities in theses western areas, sparking a period of westward expansion. Many Chinese immigrants began to arrive in California, blending into the unique frontier culture. On September 9th, 1850, California was admitted as a state. This expansion eventually forced the country to confront the issue of legalized slavery in its southern states, as the balance between "free states" and "slave states" could not be upheld.

US President Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the greatest leader of American history

The Civil War in the United States was fought from 1861 to 1865. Abraham Lincoln was President during the war, and is widely considered one of the greatest leaders of western society. Following the war, industrial manufacturing exploded, adding steam to the already growing Industrial Revolution. In 1878, Thomas Edison displayed his new lightbulb, and within a decade had built a major electrical distribution system across the nation. Economic influence would eventually begin expansion outward across the Pacific Ocean and in Latin America.

On October 2 1835, the Texas Revolution broke out as the Mexican state of Tejas declared independence from the Mexican government. Independence was declared when Santa Ana instated himself as dictator of the Mexican Republic. Following the Battle of the Alamo, Gen. Sam Houston led a major victory against the Mexicans in the Battle of San Jacinto, capturing Santa Ana himself. The Republic of Texas teetered on collapse and Mexican take-over until its annexation by the United States in 1845.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the colonies of Spain and Portugal began to revolt and declare independence, in the mold of the United States. These revolts were successful, resulting in the establishment of many independent countries from Mexico (1821) in North America to Chile (1818) in South America. Unlike the United States of America, these Latin American countries had relatively unstable governments for most of the century. This resulted in interference in internal affairs by European powers, particularly Great Britain. By the end of the century, the United States was also exerting influence. Former European colonies Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay fought in the War of the Triple Alliance from 1864 to 1870, the bloodiest conflict in Latin American history.

On September 7 1822, The Empire of Brazil declared its independence from Portugal.

Finally, during the century, the portion of the continent that had been retained by the United Kingdom of Great Britain developed slowly but surely. This development lead to the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

Other regions

For the rest of the world, there were few places not influenced by the West in some fashion, whether through colonialism, imperialism, or war. European powers gained increasing influence in China, where Qing control had weakened, and wars were fought by the western powers against China, such as the first and the second Opium wars and Sino-French War. Japan, which was forcibly opened to Western trade, began a rapid industrialisation.

The Russian Empire began expanding into Central Asia, where there was rivalry between the Russians and the British in India, in what is known as The Great Game, as the British feared the Russians would try to invade India.

The Ottoman Empire began to decline, with it losing control of areas such as Greece and Egypt. The British and the French fought the Russians in the Crimean War partly because they were afraid that the Ottoman Empire was too weak to withstand an attack by Russia.

Africa, which was largely free from European control at the start of the century, was almost completely dominated by Europe at the end of it, with the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s and 1890s.


File:British Empire 1897.jpg
Map of the world from 1897. The British Empire (marked in pink) was the superpower of the 19th century.



1816: Shaka rises to power over the Zulu kingdom






The first vessels sail through the Suez Canal




Significant people


Franz Boas one of the pioneers of modern anthropology


The Realism and Romanticism of the early 19th century gave way to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the later half of the century, with Paris being the dominant art capital of the world. 19th century painters included:


Sonata form matured during the Classical era to become the primary form of instrumental compositions throughout the 19th century. Much of the music from the nineteenth century was referred to as being in the Romantic style. Many great composers lived through this era such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Frédéric Chopin and Richard Wagner. Others included:


On the literary front the new century opens with Romanticism, a movement that spread throughout Europe in reaction to 18th-century rationalism, and it develops more or less along the lines of the Industrial Revolution, with a design to react against the dramatic changes wrought on nature by the steam engine and the railway. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are considered the initiators of the new school in England, while in the continent the German Sturm und Drang spreads its influence as far as Italy and Spain.

The Goncourts and Emile Zola in France and Giovanni Verga in Italy produce some of the finest naturalist novels. Italian naturalist novels are especially important in that they give a social map of the new unified Italy to a people that until then had been scarcely aware of its ethnic and cultural diversity. On February 21, 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto.

There was a huge literary output during the 19th century. Some of the most famous writers included the Russians Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov and Fyodor Dostoevsky; the English Charles Dickens, John Keats, Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen; the Americans Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain; the French Victor Hugo, Jules Verne and Charles Baudelaire. Some others of note included:


The 19th century saw the birth of science as a profession; the term scientist was coined in 1833 by William Whewell. Among the most influential ideas of the 19th century were those of Charles Darwin, who in 1859 published the book The Origin of Species, which introduced the idea of evolution by natural selection. Louis Pasteur made the first vaccine against rabies, and also made many discoveries in the field of chemistry, including the asymmetry of crystals. Thomas Alva Edison gave the world light with his invention of the lightbulb. Karl Weierstrass and other mathematicians also carried out the arithmetization of analysis. Other important 19th century scientists included:

Philosophy and religion

The Latter Day Saint religious movement was founded during the 19th century by Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young, which led to the set of doctrines, practices, and cultures called Mormonism. In 1844 a young merchant from Persia proclaimed that he was the Báb ("the Gate" in Arabic), founding the Bábí Faith and proclaimed to be the forerunner of "He whom God shall make manifest." In 1863, Bahá'u'lláh (a title meaning "In the Glory of God"), himself a follower of the Báb, proclaimed His mission as the Promised One of all religions. He is the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Nikolai of Japan was a religious leader who introduced Eastern Orthodoxy into Japan.

Karl Marx

Other prominent religious figures and philosophers of the 19th century include:


Otto Von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Main articles: Timeline of invention#19th_century & Timeline of scientific discoveries#1800s

Research became institutionalized at research universities such as the University of Berlin and at corporate laboratories such as Edison's Menlo Park which accelerated the rate at which discoveries and innovations were made.

See also

Decades and years

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