Timeline of Britain's Age of Empire


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Timeline of Medieval Britain
1689 - Parliament draws up the Declaration of Right detailing the unconstitutional acts of King James II. James' daughter and her husband, his nephew, become joint sovereigns of Britain as King William III and Queen Mary II. Parliament passes the Bill of Rights. Toleration Act grants rights to Trinitarian Protestant dissenters. Catholic forces loyal to James II land in Ireland from France and lay siege to Londonderry

1690 - King William defeats the Irish and French armies of his father-in-law at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland

1691 - The Treaty of Limerick allows Cathloics in Ireland to exercise their religion freely, but severe penal laws soon follow. The French War begins

1692 - The Glencoe Massacre occurs

1694 - Death of Queen Mary; King William now rules alone. Foundation of the Bank of England. Triennial Act sets the maximum duration of a parliament to three years

1695 - Lapse of the Licensing Act

1697 - Peace of Ryswick between the allied powers of the League of Augsburg and France ends the French War. Civil List Act votes funds for the maintenance of the Royal Household

1701 - The Act of Settlement settles the Royal Succession on the Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover. Death of the former King James II in exile in France. The French king recognizes James II's son as "King James III". King William forms a grand alliance between England, Holland and Austria to prevent the union of the Spanish and French crowns. The War of the Spanish Succession breaks out in Europe over the vacant throne

1702 - Death of King William III in a riding accident. He is succeeded by his sister-in-law, Queen Anne. England declares war on France as part of the War of the Spanish Succession

1704 - British, Dutch, German and Austrian troops, under the Duke of Marlborough, defeat the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim. British, Bavarian and Austrian troops under Marlborough defeat the French at the Battle of Ramillies, and expel the French from the Netherlands. The British capture Gibraltar from Spain

1707 - The Act of Union unites the kingdoms of England and Scotland and transfers the seat of Scottish Government to London

1708 - The Duke of Marlborough defeats the French at the Battle of Oudenarede. The French incur heavy losses. Queen Anne vetoes a parliamentary bill to recognise the Scottish militia. This is the last time a bill is vetoed by the sovereign

1709 - Marlborough defeats the French at the Battle of Malplaquet


1710 - A Tory ministry is formed, under Harley, with the impeachment of Dr. Sacheverell and the fall of the Whig government

1713 - The Treaty of Utrecht is signed by Britain and France, thus concluding the War of the Spanish Succession

1714 - Death of Queen Anne at Kensington Palace. She is succeeded by her distant cousin, the Elector George of Hanover, as King George I. A new parliament is elected with a strong Whig majority, led by Charles Townshend and Robert Walpole

1715 - The Jacobite Rebellion begins in Scotland with the aim of overthrowing the Hanovarian succession and placing the "Old Pretender" - James II's son - on the throne. The rebellion is easily defeated

1716 - The Septennial Act sets General Elections to be held every seven years


1717 - Townshend is dismissed from government by George I, causing Walpole to resign. The Whig party is split. Convocation is suspended

1719 - South Sea Bubble bursts, leaving many investors ruined after speculating with stock of the 'South Sea Company'

1721 - Sir Robert Walpole returns to government as First Lord of the Treasury. He remains in office until 1742 and effectively becomes Britain's first Prime Minister

1722 - Death of the Duke of Marlborough. The Jacobite 'Atterbury Plot' is hatched

1726 - First circulating library in Britain opens in Edinburgh. Jonathan Swift publishes his 'Gulliver's Travels'

1727 - Death of great British scientist, Sir Isaac Newton and of King George I (in Hanover). The latter is succeeded by his son as King George II

1729 - Alexander Pope publishes his ' Dunciad'

1730 - A split occurs between Walpole and Townshend

1732 - A royal charter is granted for the founding of Georgia in America

1733 - The 'Excise Crisis' occurs and Walpole is forced to abandon his plans to reorganise the customs and excise

1737 - Death of King George II's wife, Queen Caroline

1738 - John and Charles Wesley start the Methodist movement in Britain

1739 - Britain goes to war with Spain in the 'War of Jenkins' Ear'. The cause: Captain Jenkins' ear was claimed to have been cut off during a Naval Skirmish

1740 - Commencement of the War of Austrian Succession in Europe

1742 - Walpole resigns as Prime Minister

1743 - George II leads British troops into battle at Dettingen in Bavaria

1744 - Ministry of Pelham

1745 - Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland led by 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'. There is a Scottish victory at Prestonpans

1746 - The Duke of Cumberland crushes the Scottish Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden

1748 - The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle brings the War of Austrian Succession to a close

1751 - Death of Frederick, Prince of Wales. His son, Prince George, becomes heir to the throne

1752 - Adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in Britain

1753 - Parliament passes the Jewish Naturalization Bill

1754 - The ministry of Newcastle

1756 - Britain, allied with Prussia, declares war against France and her allies, Austria and Russia. The Seven Years' War begins

1757 - The Pitt-Newcastle ministry. Robert Clive wins the Battle of Plassey and secures the Indian province of Bengal for Britain. William Pitt becomes Prime Minister

1759 - Wolfe captures Quebec and expels the French from Canada

1760 - Death of King George II. He is succeeded by his grandson as George III

1761 - Laurence Sterne publishes his 'Tristram Shandy'

1762 - The Earl of Bute is appointed Prime Minister. He becomes very unpopular and employs a bodyguard

1763 - Peace of Paris ends the Seven Years' War. Grenville ministry.


1765 - Rockingham ministry. The American Stamp Act raises taxes in the colonies in an attempt to make their defence self-financing

1766 - Chatham ministry. Repeal of the American Stamp Act

1768 - Grafton ministry. The Middlesex Election Crisis occurs

1769 - James Watt patents the Steam Engine

1769-70 - Captain James Cook's first voyage to explore the Pacific

1770 - Lord North begins service as Prime Minister. The Falkland Island Crisis occurs. Edmund Burke publishes his 'Thoughts on the Present Discontents'

1771 - The Encyclopedia Britannica is first published

1773 - American colonists protest at the East India Company's monopoly over tea exports to the colonies, at the so-called 'Boston Tea Party'. The World's first cast-iron bridge is constructed over the River Severn at Coalbrookdale

1774 - Parliament passes the Coercive Acts in retaliation for the 'Boston Tea Party'

1775 - American War of Independence begins when colonists fight British troops at Lexington. James Watt further develops his steam engine

1776 - On 4th July, the American Congress passes their Declaration of Independence from Britain. Edward Gibbons' publishes his 'Decline and Fall' and Adam Smith, his 'Wealth if Nations'

1779 - The rise of Wyvill's Association Movement

1780 - The Gordon Riots develop from a procession to petition parliament against the Catholic Relief Act

1781 - The Americans obtain a great victory of British troops at the surrender of Yorktown

1782 - End of Lord North's time as Prime Minister. He is succeeded by Rockingham in his second ministry. Ireland obtains short-lived parliament

1783 - Shelburne's ministry, followed by that of William Pitt the Younger. Britain recognises American independence at the Peace of Versailles. Fox-North coalition established

1784 - Parliament passes the East India Act

1785 - Pitt's motion for Parliamentary Reform is defeated

1786 - The Eden commercial treaty with France is drawn up

1788 - George III suffers his first attack of 'madness' (caused by porphyria)

1789 - Outbreak of the French Revolution

1790 - Edmund Burke publishes his 'Reflections on the Revolution in France'

1791 - James Boswell publishes his 'Life of Johnson' an Thomas Paine, his 'Rights of Man'

1792 - Coal gas is used for lighting for the first time. Mary Wollstonecraft publishes her 'Vindication of the Rights of Women'

1793 - Outbreak of War between Britain and France. The voluntary Board of Agriculture is set up. Commercial depression throughout Britain

1795 - The 'Speenhamland' system of outdoor relief is adopted, making wages up to equal the cost of subsistence

1796 - Vaccination against smallpox is introduced

1798 - Introduction of a tax of ten percent on incomes over 200. T.R. Malthus publishes his 'Essay on Population'

1799 - Trade Unions are suppressed. Napoleon is appointed First Consul in France

1799-1801 - Commercial boom in Britain

1800 - Act of Union with Ireland unites Parliaments of England and Ireland

1801 - Close of Pitt the Younger's Ministry. The first British Census is undertaken

1802 - Peace with France is established. Peel introduces the first factory legislation

1803 - Beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Britain declares war on France. Parliament passes the General Enclosure Act, simplifying the process of enclosing common land

1805 - Nelson destroys the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar, but is killed in the process

1808-14 - Peninsular War to drive the French out of Spain

1809-10 - Commercial boom in Britain

1810 - Final illness of George III begins

1811 - Depression caused by Orders of Council. There are Luddite disturbances in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. The King's illness leads to his son, the Prince of Wales, becoming Regent

1812 - Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated in the House of Commons by a disgruntled bankrupt

1813 - Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' is published. The monopolies of the East India Company are abolished

1815 - The defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo marks the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Peace is established in Europe at the Congress of Vienna. The Corn Laws are passed by Parliament to protect British agriculture from cheap imports

1815-17 - Commercial boom in Britain

1817- Economic slimp in Britain leads to the 'Blanketeers' March' and other disturbances

1818 - Death of the King's wife, Queen Caroline. Mary Shelley's publishes her 'Frankenstein'


1819 - Troops intervene at a mass political reform meeting in Manchester, killing and wounding four hundred people at the 'Peterloo Massacre'

1820 - Death of the blind and deranged King George III. He is succeeded by his son, the Prince Regent, who becomes King George IV. A radical plot to murder the Cabinet, known as the Cato Street Conspiracy, fails. Trial of Queen Caroline, in which George IV attempts to divorce her for adultery

1821 - Queen Caroline is excluded from the coronation

1821-23 - Famine in Ireland

1823 - The Royal Academy of Music is established in London. The British Museum is extended and extensively rebuilt to house an expanding collection

1824 - The National Gallery is established. Commercial boom in Britain

1825 - Nash reconstructs Buckingham Palace. The World's first railway service, the Stockton and Darlington Railway opens. Trade Unions are legalized. Commercial depression in Britain

1828 - The Duke of Wellington becomes British Prime Minister

1829 - The Metropolitan Police Force is set up by Robert Peel. Parliament passes the Catholic Relief Act, ending most restrictions on Catholic Civil Rights. They are allowed to own property and run for public office, including parliament

1830 - Death of King George IV at Windsor. He is succeeded by his brother, William IV. Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Rise of the Whigs, under Grey

1830-32 - First major cholera epidemic in Britain

1831 - 'Swing' Riots in rural areas against the mechanization of agricultural activities. The new London Bridge is opened over the River Thames

1832 - The first or great Reform Act is passed. This climax of a period of political reform extends the vote to a further 500,000 people and redistributes Parliamentary seats on a more equitable basis

1833 - Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Empire. Parliament passes the Factory Act, prohibiting children aged less than nine from working in factories, and reducing the working hours of women and older children. Start of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church

1834 - Parliament passes the Poor Law Act, establishing workhouses for the poor. Robert Owen founds the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. The government acts against 'illegal oaths' in such unionism, rsulting in the Tolpuddle Martyrs being transported to Australia. Fire destroys the Palace of Westminster

1835 - Parliament passes the Municipal Reform Act, requiring members of town councils to be elected by ratepayers and councils to publish their financial accounts

1835-36 - Commercial boom with 'little' railway mania across Britain

1837 - Death of King William IV at Windsor. He is succeeded by his niece, Victoria. Births, deaths and marriages must be registered by law. Charles Dickens publishes 'Oliver Twist,' drawing attention to Britain's poor.


1838 - The Anti-Corn Law League is established. Publication of the People's Charter. The start of Chartism

1839 - Chartist Riots take place

1840 - Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The penny post is instituted

1841 - The first British Census recording the names of the populace is undertaken. The Tories come to power. Sir Robert Peel becomes Prime Minister

1844 - Parliament passes the Bank Charter Act. Foundation of the Rochdale Co-Operative Society and the Royal Commission on the Health of Towns

1844-45 - Railways mania explodes across Britain. Massive investment and speculation leads to the laying of 5,000 miles of track

1845-49 - Irish Potato Famine kills more than a million people

1846 - End of Sir Robert Peel's Ministry. Whigs come to Power. Repeal of the Corn Laws

1848 - Major Chartist demonstration in London. Revolutions in Europe. Parliament passes the Public Health Act

1851 - The Great Exhibition is staged in Hyde Park. Thanks to Prince Albert, it is a great success

1852 - Death of the Duke of Wellington. Derby's first minority Conservative government. Aberdeen's coalition government is established

1853 - Vaccination against smallpox is made compulsory. Queen Victoria uses chloroform during birth of Prince Leopold. Gladstone presents his first budget

1854 - The Northcote-Trevelyan civil service report is published
The Crimean War begins, as Britain and France attempt to defend European interests in the Middle East against Russia

1855 - End of Aberdeen's coalition government. Palmerston's first government comes to power

1856 - Crimean War comes to an end. The Victoria Cross is instituted for military bravery

1857-58 - The Second Opium War opens China to European trade. The Indian Mutiny erupts against British Rule on the sub-continent

1858 - Derby establishes his second minority government. Parliament passes the India Act

1859 - End of Derby's second minority government. Palmerston brings his second Liberal government to power. Charles Darwin publishes his 'The Origin of the Species'

1860 - Gladstone's budget and the Anglo-French Cobden Treaty codifies and extends the principles of free trade

1861 - Death of Prince Albert, Prince Consort

1862 - Parliament passes the Limited Liability Act in order to provide vital stimulus to accumulation of capital in shares

1863 - Edward, Prince of Wales, marries Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The Salvation Army is founded

1865 - Death of Palmerston. Russell establishes his second Liberal government

1866 - Russell and Gladstone fail to have their moderate Reform Bill passed in parliament. Derby takes power in his third minority Conservative government

1867 - Derby and Disraeli's Second Reform Bill doubles the franchise to two million. Canada becomes the first independent dominion in the British Empire under the Dominion of Canada Act

1868 - Disraeli succeeds Derby as Prime Minister. Gladstone becomes Prime Minister for the first time

1869 - The Irish Church is disestablished. The Suez Canal is opened

1870 - Primary education becomes compulsory in Britain through the Forster-Ripon English Elementary Education Act. Parliament also passes the Women's Property Act, extending the rights of married women, and the Irish Land Act

1871 - Trade Unions are legalized

1872 - Secret voting is introduced for elections. Parliament passes the Scottish Education Act

1873 - Gladstone's government resigns after the defeat of their Irish Universities Bill. Disraeli declines to take up office instead

1874 - Disraeli becomes Conservative Prime Minister for the second time

1875 - Disraeli purchases a controlling interest for Britain in the Suez Canal. Agricultural depression increases

1875-76 - Parliament passes R.A. Cross's Conservative social reforms

1876 - Queen Victoria becomes Empress of India. The massacre of Christians in Turkish Bulgaria leads to anti-Turkish campaigns in Britain, led by Gladstone

1877 - Confederation of British and Boer states established in South Africa

1878 - The Congress of Berlin is held. Disraeli announces 'peace with honour'

1879 - A trade depression emerges in Britain. The Zulu War is fought in South Africa. The British are defeated at Isandhlwana, but are victorious at Ulundi

1879-80 - Gladstone's Midlothian campaign denounces imperialism in South Africa and Afghanistan

1880 - Gladstone establishes his second Liberal government

1880-81 - The first Anglo-Boer War is fought

1881 - Parliament passes the Irish Land and Coercion Acts

1882 - Britain occupies Egypt. A triple alliance is established between Germany, Austria and Italy

1884 - Parliament passes the third Reform Act which further extends the franchise

1885 - Death of General Gordon at Khartoum. Burma is annexed. Salisbury succeeds Gladstone with his first minority Conservative government. Parliament passes the Redistribution Act

1886 - Gladstone's third Liberal government fails to pass its first Irish Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons. Gladstone resigns as Prime Minister. Split in the Liberal Party. Salisbury establishes his second Conservative-Liberal-Unionist government. The Royal Niger Company is chartered. Gold is discovered in the Transvaal

1887 - Queen Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee. The Independent Labour Party is founded. The British East Africa Company is chartered

1888 - The County Councils' Act establishes representative county based authorities

1889 - London Dockers' Strike. The British South Africa Company is chartered

1892 - Gladstone forms his fourth Liberal government

1893 - Second Irish Home Rule Bill fails to pass the House of Lords

1894 - Rosebery takes power with his minority Liberal government

1895 - Salisbury forms his third Unionist ministry

1896 - The British conquest of the Sudan begins

1897 - Queen Victoria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee


1898 - British rule over Sudan fully established. German Naval expansion begins

1899 - British disasters in South Africa


1899-1902 - Boer War in South Africa

1900 - Salisbury wins the Khaki election. The Labour Representation Committee is formed. Parliament passes the Commonwealth of Australia Act

1901 - Death of Queen Victoria. She is succeeded by her son, Prince Albert, as King Edward VII

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