19th century

19th century
Millennium: 2nd millennium
Centuries: 18th century · 19th century · 20th century
Decades: 1800s 1810s 1820s 1830s 1840s
1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s
Categories: Births – Deaths
Establishments – Disestablishments
Antoine-Jean Gros, Surrender of Madrid, 1808. Napoleon enters Spain's capital during the Peninsular War, 1810

The 19th century (1801–1900) was a period in history marked by the collapse of the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Holy Roman and Mughal empires. This paved the way for the growing influence of the British Empire, the German Empire, the United States and the Empire of Japan, spurring military conflicts but also advances in science and exploration.

After the defeat of the French Empire and its allies in the Napoleonic Wars, the British Empire became the world's leading power, controlling one quarter of the world's population and one fifth of the total land area. It enforced a Pax Britannica, encouraged trade, and battled rampant piracy. The 19th century was an era of invention and discovery, with significant developments in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, electricity, and metallurgy that lay the groundwork for the technological advances of the 20th century.[1] The Industrial Revolution began in Europe.[2] The Victorian era was notorious for the employment of young children in factories and mines.[3] In Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, Japan embarks on a program of rapid modernization. Then Japan went to war against Qing, and won the First Sino-Japanese War.

Advances in medicine and the understanding of human anatomy and disease prevention took place in the 19th century, and were partly responsible for rapidly accelerating population growth in the western world. Europe's population doubled during the 19th century, from roughly 200 million to more than 400 million.[4] The introduction of railroads provided the first major advancement in land transportation for centuries, changing the way people lived and obtained goods, and fueling major urbanization movements in countries across the globe. Numerous cities worldwide surpassed populations of a million or more during this century. London was transformed into the world's largest city and capital of the British Empire. Its population expanded from 1 million in 1800 to 6.7 million a century later. The last remaining undiscovered landmasses of Earth, including vast expanses of interior Africa and Asia, were discovered during this century, and with the exception of the extreme zones of the Arctic and Antarctic, accurate and detailed maps of the globe were available by the 1890s. Liberalism became the preeminent reform movement in Europe.[5]

Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Slave Market c.1884

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.[6] The first empire to abolish slavery was the Portuguese Empire, followed by Britain, who did so in 1834. America's 13th Amendment following their Civil War abolished slavery there in 1865, and in Brazil slavery was abolished in 1888 (see Abolitionism). Similarly, serfdom was abolished in Russia.

The 19th century was remarkable in the widespread formation of new settlement foundations which were particularly prevalent across North America and Australasia, with a significant proportion of the two continents' largest cities being founded at some point in the century. In the 19th century approximately 70 million people left Europe.[7]

The 19th century also saw the rapid creation, development and codification of many sports, particularly in Britain and the United States. Association football, rugby union, baseball and many other sports were developed during the 19th century, while the British Empire facilitated the rapid spread of sports such as cricket to many different parts of the world.

It also marks the fall of the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans which led to the creation of Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Romania as a result of the second Russo-Turkish War, which in itself followed the great Crimean War.




Map of the world from 1897. The British Empire (marked in pink) was the superpower of the 19th century.
Napoleon's retreat from Russia. Napoleon's Grande Armée had lost near half a million of men.
Stephenson's Rocket, preserved in the Science Museum, London
William Wilberforce (1759–1833), politician and philanthropist who was a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade.


The discoveries of Michael Faraday formed the foundation of electric motor technology



1816: Shaka rises to power over the Zulu Kingdom. Zulu expansion was a major factor of the Mfecane (“Crushing”) that depopulated large areas of southern Africa
Decembrists at the Senate Square.


The Great Exhibition in London. The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to industrialise.



Dead Confederate soldiers. 30% of all Southern white males 18–40 years of age died in the American Civil War.[9]
The first vessels sail through the Suez Canal


Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis bacilli. In the 19th century, tuberculosis killed an estimated one-quarter of the adult population of Europe.[10]
David Livingstone, Scottish explorer and missionary in Africa
From 1865-1870 Paraguay lost more than half of its population in the War of the Triple Alliance against Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Black Friday, 9 May 1873, Vienna Stock Exchange. The Panic of 1873 and Long Depression followed.



First bus in history: a Benz truck modified by Netphener company (1895)
Miners and prospectors ascend the Chilkoot Trail during the Klondike Gold Rush
Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War in South Africa


Significant people

Abraham Lincoln in 1863, 16th President of The United States, presided during the American Civil War, assassinated in April 1865
José Rizal, a patriot and an advocate for reforms in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era in the late 19th century

Show business and theatre

Franz Boas one of the pioneers of modern anthropology
Konstantin Stanislavski, creator of the Stanislavski's system
Ellen Terry, c.1880
P. T. Barnum, c. 1860


John L Sullivan in his prime, c.1882.


Famous and infamous personalities

Jesse and Frank James, 1872
Deputies Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, 1876
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody, Montreal, Quebec, 1885
Geronimo, 1887, prominent leader of the Chiricahua Apache
William Bonney aka Henry McCarty aka Billy the Kid, c. late 1870s
Baptiste Deburau c. 1830s, as Pierrot.

Anthropology, archaeology, scholars

Journalists, missionaries, explorers

Thomas Nast, c. 1860–1875, photo by Mathew Brady or Levin Handy


One of the first photographs, produced in 1826 by Nicéphore Niépce
Mathew Brady, Self-portrait, c.1875

Visual artists, painters, sculptors

Vincent van Gogh, Self-portrait, 1889
Ilya Repin, Self-portrait, 1878

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. In the United States the Hudson River School was prominent. 19th century painters included:


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Niccolo Paganini, (c.1819), charcoal drawing
Chopin, by Delacroix, 1838.

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 19th century was referred to as being in the Romantic style. Many great composers lived through this era such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Richard Wagner. The list includes:


Mark Twain, 1894
Henry David Thoreau, August 1861.
Emile Zola, c.1900

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.

French arts had been hampered by the Napoleonic Wars but subsequently developed rapidly. Modernism began.

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 Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and Fyodor Dostoevsky; the English Charles Dickens, John Keats, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Jane Austen; the Scottish Sir Walter Scott; the Irish Oscar Wilde; the Americans Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain; and the French Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Jules Verne and Charles Baudelaire. Some other important writers of note included:


Mme. Marie Curie, c.1898

The 19th century saw the birth of science as a profession; the term scientist was coined in 1833 by William Whewell.[11] 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. Dmitri Mendeleev created the first periodic table of elements. 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 a practical everyday lightbulb. Karl Weierstrass and other mathematicians also carried out the arithmetization of analysis for functions of real and complex variables; they also began the use of hypercomplex numbers. But the most important step in science at this time was the ideas formulated by Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Their work changed the face of physics and made possible for new technology to come about. Other important 19th century scientists included:

Philosophy and religion

The 19th century was host to a variety of religious and philosophical thinkers, including:

Politics and the Military

See also

External links

Media related to 19th century at Wikimedia Commons

Supplementary portrait gallery


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