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Timeline of the British Empire

From the Act of Union to the Great War

Foundation of Empire (18th century)     Height of Empire (19th century)     Ireland     Canada     Australia and New Zealand     India and Asia     Colonial Africa     The Great War (20th century)    

Foundation of Empire (1707 to 1815)

The Act of Union, to the Battle of Waterloo

Date Event
1707 England and Scotland unite to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
1714 George I appointed first Hanoverian King; Walpole becomes Prime Minister.
1715 Old Pretender precipitates first Jacobite rising in Scotland.
1739-1748 War of Austrian Succession begins—Britain allies with Austria to fight France.
1745 —Young Pretender incites second Jacobite rising in Scotland.
1748 —Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ends the War of Austrian Succession, but brings no important changes.
1756-1763 Seven Years War (a.k.a French and Indian War in America, and Carnatic War in India) results in colonial conquests for Britain.
1757 —Clive's victory at Plassey wins Bengal for Britain.
1759 —Wolfe's capture of Quebec wins Canada for Britain.
1759 —Hawke's victory at Quiberon Bay destroys French Sea Power.
1755 Samuel Johnson publishes Dictionary of English Language.
1766 William Pitt the Elder becomes Prime Minister of England.
1764 James Hargreaves invents the Spinning Jenny.
1771 Captain James Cook discovers Australia, New Zealand.
1776 Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations which revolutionizes ideas about commerce, taxes, and economics.
1776 Declaration of Independence precipitates the American Revolutionary War.
1783 Lord Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown; Britain loses most of New World colonies.
1782 William Pitt the Younger becomes Prime Minster of England.
1784 James Watt invents the Steam Engine—ushers in the industrial revolution.
1793-1802 French Revolutionary Wars ends in a stalemate.
1797 Battles of St. Vincent and Camperdown give Britain control of the sea.
1798 Battle of the Nile destroys Napoleon's plans to take over Egypt.
1801 Battle of Copenhagen destroys French naval power in the North Sea.
1798 Irish Rebellion is put down by Britain.
1801 Irish Parliament dissolved;—Ireland, unwillingly, joins the United Kingdom.
1804 Napoleon Bonaparte makes himself emperor of France.
1802-1914 Napoleonic Wars drag all of Europe into turmoil.
1805 —British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar under Lord Nelson destroys French naval power.
1808 —Start of Peninsular War in Spain—Duke of Wellington helps drive the French out of Spain.
1812-1814 War of 1812 with the United States.
1815 —Wellington and Blucher defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

Height of Empire (1815 to 1902)

Aftermath of Napoleonic Wars, to the Second Boer War

Date Event
1821 George Stephenson invents the locomotive; ushers in age of railways.
1829 Catholic Emancipation in Ireland—Catholics allowed to vote.
1832 First Reform Act—Whigs take control of Parliament.
1833 Abolition of Slavery in British colonies.
1837 Queen Victoria ascends to the throne of England.
1842 Massacre at Kyber Pass—British army retreats from Afghanistan
1846 Potato Famine, Repeal of the Corn Laws, Free Trade
1851 Great Exhibition opens in the Crystal Palace in London
1852 David Livingstone begins his first expedition into Africa
1854-1856 Crimean War—Britain allies itself with Ottomans to oppose Russian expansion.
1857 Indian Mutiny—rebellion of Sepoys put down with great slaughter.
1859 Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species.
1865 Henry Bessemer process greatly improves production of steel.
1858 First Transatlantic Cable laid.
1868-1874 First Ministry of William Gladstone—promotes a liberal reform agenda.
1874-1880 Second Ministry of Benjamin Disraeli—promotes a conservative imperial agenda.
1879 Anglo-Zulu War—British prevail over Zulus after suffering a massacre at Isandhlwana
1880 First Boer War—British concede to Boer demands after suffering serious defeats.
1875 Egyptian Share of Suez canal sold to Britain.
1882 British put down Arabi's Rebellion at the Battle of Tel-al-Kebar.
1870 Death of Charles Dickens, British novelist.
1885 Death of Charles Gordon at the Siege of Khartoum—British relieving force fails to arrive in time.
1887 Fiftieth year Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
1898 Horatio Kitchener defeats the rebel Mahdists of Sudan at the Battle of Omdurman.
1899-1902 Second Boer War—Hard fought British victory forces the Boers to submit to British rule.
1901 Death of Queen Victoria

Ireland (450 to 1922)

St. Patrick brings Christianity to Ireland, to Irish Independence

Date Event
450 Saint Patrick converts Ireland to Christianity.
850 Brian Boru drives Vikings out of Ireland, and briefly unites tribes.
1169 Norman Invasion puts Ireland under nominal English control.
1315 Edward Bruce, brother of Robert I of Scotland, attempts to drive English out of Ireland.
1497 Lambert Simnel, pretender to English throne, lands in Dublin.
1536 Henry VIII begins reconquest of Ireland under Protestant rule.
1594-1603 Nine Years War—English conquer Northern Ireland and assume control of Ulster.
1641 Catholic Uprisings during English Civil War; massacre of Protestants in Ulster.
1649 Oliver Cromwell invades Ireland—infamous Siege of Drogheda.
1688-1691 Williamite War in Ireland, following the "Glorious Revolution" in Britain.
1688 Siege of Londonderry is relieved by Protestant army.
1690 —James II returns to France after the Battle of Boyne.
1691 Penal laws enforced which oppress, dispossess Irish Catholics.
1782 Henry Grattan establishes independent Irish Parliament.
1798 Irish rebellion.
1801 Ireland (unwillingly) merged into the "United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland";
1829 Catholics allowed to vote.
1845-1849 Irish potato famine.
1869 Disestablishment of the Anglican Irish State Church
1882 Murder of Cavendish in Ireland.
1893 Parnell's Home Rule Bill defeated by small majority.
1916 Easter Rising in Dublin raises sympathy for Irish Rebels.
1919-1921 Irish War of Independence.
1922 Partition of Ireland: Formation of Irish Free State.

Canada (1497 to 1949)

Cabot's first voyage to North America, to Union of Canada and Newfoundland

Date Event
1497 John Cabot claims Newfoundland for England.
1576 Sir Martin Frobisher searches for the Northwest Passage.
1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert attempts to found colony in Newfoundland.
1608 Samuel de Champlain establishes Quebec.
1611 Henry Hudson is left adrift by a mutinous crew in Hudson Bay.
1670 Hudson Bay Trading Company chartered by Charles II.
1688-1713 First and Second French & Indian Wars.
1744-1763 Third and Forth French & Indian Wars.
1755 Defeat of General Braddock at Battle of Fort Duquesne.
1755 Acadians from Nova Scotia forced to relocate.
1759 At the Battle of Quebec General Wolfe delivers most of New France to the British.
1789 Alexander Mackenzie discovers his river and the Arctic Ocean.
1791 French Quebec partitioned into Lower and Upper Canada.
1792 George Vancouver discovers British Columbia.
1837 Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada against British rule.
1840 Act of Union unites Upper and Lower Canada.
1867 New Brunswick and Nova Scotia join Canadian Federation.
1870 Manitoba and British Columbia join Canadian Federation.
1885 Completion of Canadian Pacific Rail, Montreal to Vancouver.
1905 Saskatchewan and Alberta join Canadian Federation.
1931 Statute of Westminster grants British provinces self-government.
1949 Newfoundland joins Canadian Federation.

Australia and New Zealand (1770 to 1931)

First Voyage of Captain Cook, to the Statute of Westminster

Date Event
1642 Abel Janszoon Tasman discovers Tasmania, New Zealand and the Fiji islands.
1770 Captain James Cook rediscovers Australia and New Zealand for Britain.
1788 First settlement in Australia, a Penal Colony, established at Botany Bay.
1801 George Bass and Matthew Flinders first expedition around the coast of Australia.
1839 New Zealand annexed to the British empire.
1850 Discovery of gold in Australia.
1845-1872 Maori Wars between British settlers and natives of New Zealand
1888 New Guinea becomes a crown colony.

British India and China (1600 to 1901)

First Charter of British East India Company, to Boxer Rebellion in China

Date Event
1526 Baber founds the Moghul empire in India.
1600 British East India Company granted a charter.
1612 First British trading post established at Surat.
1650 Trading posts established at Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.
1618-1707 Reign of Great Mogul Aurangzeb—strict adherence to Islamic law alienates Hindu subjects.
1674 Shivaji founds the Maratha empire in the Deccan as the Moghul empire began to collapse.
1746 Beginning of Carnatic Wars in India; British fight French with Indian allies.
1751 Siege of Arcot is Clive's first great success in India.
1756 —Over a hundred British citizens perish in the "Black Hole of Calcutta".
1757 —With the help of a traitor, Clive wins Bengal for Britain at the Battle of Plassey.
1773 Warren Hastings appointed first Governor of India. Later, tried in Britain for corruption.
1775-1803 Mahratta Wars—British victories in the Deccan increase Britain's influence in central India.
1799 Death of Tipu Sultan ends the Mysore Wars in southern India.
1839-1842 First Opium War with China—Hong Kong ceded to Britain.
1842 First Anglo-Afghan War—Massacre at Khyber Pass.
1845 Anglo-Sikh Wars results in the annexation of Punjab.
1852 Burma is annexed to British territory.
1857 Indian Mutiny—worst rebellion in history of the British empire.
1858 East India Company is dissolved—India made colony of the British Empire.
1856-1860 Second Opium War with China—destruction of Summer Palace
1860 General Charles Gordon aids the Chinese Government against Taipings.
1899-1901 Boxer Rebellion in China.

Colonial Africa (1770 to 1910)

James Bruce discovers the Blue Nile, to Union of South Africa

Date Event
1770 James Bruce discovers the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia.
1795 British take control of South Africa during French Revolutionary Wars.
1796 Mungo Park discovers source of the Niger and explores the Niger basin.
1807 Prohibition of slave trade enforced by British navy.
1815-1835 The Zulus, under Chaka, become the predominant tribe in Southeast Africa.
1833 Slavery prohibited in English colonies
1835-1845 Great Boer Trek, from Cape Colony to Natal and then Transvaal
1837 Zulus, under Dingan, murder 400 Boers but were later defeated at the Battle of Blood River.
1843 First British settlement in Natal.
1852 Livingstone's first journey across southern Africa.
1855 Paul du Chaillu embarks on his first independent journey into Gabon and Congo.
1858 John Hanning Speke and Richard Burton discover Lake Victoria.
1859 Livingstone's Zambezi Expedition.
1864 Third Anglo-Ashanti War, for control of trade in the Gold Coast.
1867 Discovery of diamond mines in Kimberly.
1874 H. M. Stanley starts his expedition down the Congo River.
1879 After suffering a horrendous massacre at Isandhlwana, the British subdue the Zulus.
1880 First Boer War ends in victory for the Boers.
1880 Cecil Rhodes opens De Beers mining company and corners the diamond market.
1885 Discovery of gold in the Transvaal.
1885 Rhodes establishes a British Protectorate for Bechuanaland.
1896 Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War.
1899-1902 Second Boer War—hard fought struggle ends in a British victory and loss of the Boer republics.
1910 Union of South Africa.

The Great War (1900 to 1922)

Prelude to Aftermath of the Great War

Date Event
June 1914 Murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand.
Aug 3, 1914 Germany declares War on France.
Aug 20, 1914 Germans enter Brussels.
Sept 6, 1914 First Battle of Marne—French Victory.
Dec 24, 1914 First German Air-raid on Britain.
April 17, 1915 Battle of Ypres—First use of Poison Gas.
Apr 25, 1915 Allied troops land on Gallipoli
May 7, 1915 British Passenger Liner Lusitania sunk by the Germans.
May 23, 1915 Italy enters war on the side of the allies.
Oct 13, 1915 Germans execute Edith Cavell, a British nurse
Oct 14, 1915 Bulgaria enters the war.
Dec 19, 1915 Withdrawal from Gallipoli.
Feb 21-July, 1916 Battle of Verdun.
May 31, 1916 Naval battle of Jutland.
July 1-Nov, 1916 Battle of Somme.
Aug 29, 1916 Hindenburg takes supreme command of German armies.
Mar 11, 1917 Baghdad captured by British.
Apr 6, 1917 America declares War on Germany.
July 20, 1917 Kerensky succeeds as premier of Russia
Nov 7, 1917 Overthrow of Kerensky by the Bolsheviks—Russia withdraws from the war.
Apr 9, 1918 German offensive between Ypres and Arras.
May 27, 1918 German offensive near Chateau-Thierry and Marne River.
June 11, 1918 American offensive in Belleau Wood.
July 18, 1918 Second Battle of Marne—Allied Victory.
Sept 22, 1918 British victory over the Ottomans in Palestine.
Oct 1, 1918 Hindenburg Line taken by the French.
Oct 1918 German Losses at Laon, Ostend, Lille, Aleppo.
Nov 11 1918 Armistice signed between Allies and German powers.

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