Timeline of World History TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY



1800 - 1899
1800-09 1810-19 1820-29 1830-39 1840-49 1850-59 1860-69 1870-79 1880-89 1890-99
1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890
1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
1802 1812 1822 1832 1842 1852 1862 1872 1882 1892
1803 1813 1823 1833 1843 1853 1863 1873 1883 1893
1804 1814 1824 1834 1844 1854 1864 1874 1884 1894
1805 1815 1825 1835 1845 1855 1865 1875 1885 1895
1806 1816 1826 1836 1846 1856 1866 1876 1886 1896
1807 1817 1827 1837 1847 1857 1867 1877 1887 1897
1808 1818 1828 1838 1848 1858 1868 1878 1888 1898
1809 1819 1829 1839 1849 1859 1869 1879 1889 1899
  BACK-1849 Part IV NEXT-1850 Part I    
1850 - 1859
History at a Glance
1850 Part I
Compromise of 1850
Constitution of Prussia
The eight Kaffir War, 1850-1853
Masaryk Tomas
Kitchener Horatio Herbert
Erfurt Union
Fillmore Millard
Taiping Rebellion
Hong Xiuquan
Feng Yunshan
Yang Xiuqing
Shi Dakai
1850 Part II
Protestant churches in Prussia
Public Libraries Act 1850
Schopenhauer: "Parerga und Paralipomena"
Herbert Spencer: "Social Statics"
E. B. Browning: "Sonnets from the Portuguese"
Emerson: "Representative Men"
Hawthorne: "The Scarlet Letter"
Herzen Aleksandr
Ibsen: "Catiline"
Loti Pierre
Maupassant Guy
Guy de Maupassant
Stevenson Robert Louis
Robert Louis Stevenson  
"Treasure Island
Turgenev: "A Month in the Country"
1850 Part III
Corot: "Une Matinee"
Courbet: "The Stone Breakers"
Menzel: "Round Table at Sansouci"
Millais: "Christ in the House of His Parents"
Millet: "The Sower"
Bristow George Frederick
George Frederick Bristow - Dream Land
George Frederick Bristow
Schumann: "Genoveva"
Wagner: "Lohengrin"
1850 Part IV
Bernard Claude
Clausius Rudolf
Stephenson Robert
Chebyshev Pafnuty Lvovich
Barth Heinrich
Galton Francis
Anderson Karl John
McClure Robert
McClure Arctic Expedition
Royal Meteorological Society
University of Sydney
1851 Part I
Victoria, state of Australia
Murdock Joseph Ballard
Machado Bernardino
Bourgeois Leon Victor Auguste
Foch Ferdinand
Bombardment of Sale
French coup d'état
Danilo II
Hawthorne: "The House of Seven Gables"
Gottfried Keller: "Der grune Heinrich"
Ward Humphry
Ruskin: "The Stones of Venice"
1851 Part II
Herman Melville: "Moby Dick"
Corot: "La Danse des Nymphes"
Walter Thomas Ustick
Ward Leslie
Crystal Palace
Falero Luis Ricardo
Luis Ricardo Falero
Kroyer Peder
Peder Kroyer
Hughes Edward Robert
Edward Robert Hughes
1851 Part III
Gounod: "Sappho"
D’Indy Vincent
Vincent D'Indy - Medee
Vincent d'Indy
Verdi: "Rigoletto"
Bogardus James
Cast-iron architecture
Kapteyn Jacobus Cornelius
Helmholtz's ophthalmoscope
Neumann Franz Ernst
Ruhmkorff Heinrich Daniel
Singer Isaac Merrit
Cubitt William
Thomson William
Royal School of Mines
Carpenter Mary
"The New York Times"
1852 Part I
Joffre Joseph
Second French Empire
Second Anglo-Burmese War
New Zealand Constitution Act
Asquith Herbert Henry
Pierce Franklin
Delisle Leopold Victor
Fischer Kuno
First Plenary Council of Baltimore
Vaihinger Hans
Gioberti Vincenzo
1852 Part II
Bourget Paul
Creasy Edward
Creasy: "The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo"
Charles Dickens: "Bleak House"
Theophile Gautier: "Emaux et Camees"
Moore George
Reade Charles
Harriet Beecher Stowe: "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Thackeray: "History of Henry Esmond"
Turgenev: "A Sportsman's Sketches"
Zhukovsky Vasily
1852 Part III
Fopd Madox Brown: "Christ Washing Peter's Feet"
William Holman Hunt: "The Light of the World"
John Everett Millais: "Ophelia"
Bryullov Karl
Karl Bryullov
Stanford Charles
Charles Villiers Stanford - Piano Concerto No.2
Charles Stanford
Becquerel Henri
Gerhardt Charles Frederic
Van’t Hoff Jacobus Henricus
Mathijsen Antonius
Michelson Albert
Ramsay William
Sylvester James Joseph
United All-England Eleven
Wells Fargo & Company
1853 Part I
Eugenie de Montijo
Crimean War
Battle of Sinop
Rhodes Cecil
Peter V
Nagpur Province
1853 Part II
Mommsen: "History of Rome"
Matthew Arnold: "The Scholar-Gipsy"
Charlotte Bronte: "Villette"
Caine Hall
Elizabeth Gaskell: "Ruth"
Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Tanglewood Tales"
Charles Kingsley: "Hypatia"
Tree Herbert Beerbohm
Charlotte M. Yonge: "The Heir of Redclyffe"
1853 Part III
Haussmann Georges-Eugene
Larsson Carl
Carl Larsson
Hodler Ferdinand
Ferdinand Hodler
Van Gogh Vincent
Vincent van Gogh
Steinway Henry Engelhard
Verdi: "Il Trovatore"
Verdi: "La Traviata"
Wood Alexander
"Die Gartenlaube"
International Statistical Congress
1854 Part I
Bloemfontein Convention
Orange Free State
Battle of the Alma
Menshikov Alexander Sergeyevich
Siege of Sevastopol (1854-1855)
Kornilov Vladimir Alexeyevich
Battle of Balaclava
Battle of Inkerman
Perry Matthew Calbraith
Gadsden Purchase
Bleeding Kansas (1854–59)
Kansas-Nebraska Act
Elgin-Marcy Treaty
Republican Party
Said of Egypt
Ostend Manifesto
1854 Part II
Herzog Johann
Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau
Youthful Offenders Act 1854
Immaculate Conception
Patmore Coventry
Patmore: "The Angel in the House"
Sandeau Leonard
Guerrazzi Francesco Domenico
Rimbaud Arthur
Arthur Rimbaud "Poems"
Tennyson: "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
Thackeray: "The Rose and the Ring"
Thoreau: "Walden, or Life in the Woods"
1854 Part III
Courbet: "Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet"
Frith William Powell
William Frith
Millet: "The Reaper"
Angrand Charles
Charles Angrand
Gotch Thomas Cooper
Thomas Cooper Gotch
Berlioz: "The Infant Christ"
Humperdinck Engelbert
Humperdinck - Hansel und Gretel
Liszt: "Les Preludes"
1854 Part IV
Poincare Henri
Eastman George
Ehrenberg Christian Gottfried
Paul Ehrlich
Goebel Henry
George Boole: "The Laws of Thought"
Riemann Bernhard
Wallace Alfred Russel
Southeast Asia
"Le Figaro"
Litfass Ernst
Northcote–Trevelyan Report
Maurice Frederick Denison
1855 Part I
Alexander II
Istomin Vladimir Ivanovich
Somerset FitzRoy
Nakhimov Pavel Stepanovich
Treaty of Peshawar
Bain Alexander
Droysen Johann
Gratry Auguste
Milman Henry
Le Play Pierre
1855 Part II
Charles Kingsley: "Westward Ho!"
Nerval Gerard
Charles Dickens "Little Dorrit"
Ganghofer Ludwig
Longfellow: "The Song of Hiawatha"
Corelli Marie
Pinero Arthur Wing
Tennyson: "Maud"
Anthony Trollope: "The Warden"
Turgenev: "Rudin"
Walt Whitman: "Leaves of Grass"
Berlioz: "Те Deum"
Verdi: "Les Vepres Siciliennes"
Chansson Ernest
Chausson - Poeme
Ernest Chausson
1855 Part III
Hughes David Edward
Lowell Percival
Cunard Line
"The Daily Telegraph"
Niagara Falls suspension bridge
Paris World Fair
1856 Part I
Victoria Cross
Doctrine of Lapse
Oudh State
Ottoman Reform Edict of 1856
Congress of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1856)
Napoleon, Prince Imperial
Sacking of Lawrence
Pottawatomie massacre
Second Opium War (1856-1860)
Anglo–Persian War (1856-1857)
Buchanan James
1856 Part II
Froude: "History of England"
Goldstucker Theodor
Lotze Rudolf Hermann
Motley: "Rise of the Dutch Republic"
Flaubert: "Madame Bovary"
Haggard Henry Rider
Victor Hugo: "Les Contemplations"
Charles Reade: "It Is Never Too Late to Mend"
Shaw George Bernard
Wilde Oscar
1856 Part III
Berlage Hendrik Petrus
Ferstel Heinrich
Sargent John
John Singer Sargent
Vrubel Mikhail
Mikhail Vrubel
Cross Henri Edmond
Henri-Edmond Cross
Bechstein Carl
Dargomyzhsky Alexander
Alexander Dargomyzhsky: "Rusalka"
Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Maillart Aime
Aime Maillart - Les Dragons de Villars
Sinding Christian
Sinding - Suite in A minor
Christian Sinding
1856 Part IV
Bessemer Henry
Bessemer process
Freud Sigmund
Sigmund Freud
Peary Robert Edwin
Pringsheim Nathanael
Siemens Charles William
Hardie James Keir
Taylor Frederick Winslow
"Big Ben"
1857 Part I
Treaty of Paris
Indian Rebellion of 1857
Italian National Society
Manin Daniele
Taft William Howard
1857 Part II
Buckle Henry Thomas
Buckle: "History of Civilization in England"
Charles Baudelaire: "Les Fleurs du mal"
Conrad Joseph
Joseph Conrad 
"Lord Jim"
George Eliot: "Scenes from Clerical Life"
Hughes Thomas
Thomas Hughes: "Tom Brown's Schooldays"
Mulock Dinah
 Pontoppidan Henrik
Adalbert Stifter: "Nachsommer"
Sudermann Hermann
Thackeray: "The Virginians"
Anthony Trollope: "Barchester Towers"
1857 Part III
Klinger Max
Max Klinger
Millet: "The Gleaners"
Dahl Johan Christian
Johan Christian Dahl
Leoncavallo Ruggero
Ruggero Leoncavallo - Pagliacci
Ruggero Leoncavallo 
Elgar Edward
Edward Elgar - The Light of Life
Edward Elgar
Kienzl Wilhelm
Wilhelm Kienzl - Symphonic Variations
Wilhelm Kienzl
Liszt: "Eine Faust-Symphonie"
1857 Part IV
Coue Emile
Hertz Heinrich
Wagner-Jauregg Julius
Ross Ronald
Newton Charles Thomas
Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
Burton Richard
Speke John Hanning
The Nile Quest
McClintock Francis
Alpine Club
"The Atlantic Monthly"
Baden-Powell Robert
Matrimonial Causes Act
North German Lloyd
1858 Part I
Orsini Felice
Stanley Edward
Treaty of Tientsin
Government of India Act 1858
Law Bonar
William I
Karageorgevich Alexander
Roosevelt Theodore
1858 Part II
Bernadette Soubirous
Carey Henry Charles
Thomas Carlyle: "History of Friedrich II of Prussia"
Hecker Isaac
Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle
Rothschild Lionel Nathan
Schaff Philip
Benson Frank
Feuillet Octave
Oliver Wendell Holmes: "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table"
Kainz Joseph
Lagerlof Selma
1858 Part III
Corinth Lovis
Lovis Corinth
William Powell Frith: "The Derby Day"
Menzel: "Bon soir, Messieurs"
Segantini Giovanni
Giovanni Segantini
Khnopff Fernand
Fernand Khnopff
Toorop Jan
Cornelius Peter
Cornelius: "Der Barbier von Bagdad"
Jaques Offenbach: "Orpheus in der Unterwelt"
Puccini Giacomo
Giacomo Puccini: Donna non vidi mai
Giacomo Puccini
1858 Part IV
Diesel Rudolf
Huxley Thomas Henry
Planck Max
Mirror galvanometer
General Medical Council
Suez Canal Company
S.S. "Great Eastern"
Webb Beatrice
Webb Sidney
Transatlantic telegraph cable
1859 Part I
Second Italian War of Independence
Battle of Varese
Battle of Palestro
Battle of Magenta
Battle of Solferino
Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies
Francis II of the Two Sicilies
Charles XV of Sweden
German National Association
Jaures Jean
Roon Albrecht
William II
1859 Part II
Bergson Henri
Henri Bergson
Bergson Henri "Creative Evolution"
Charles Darwin: "On the Origin of Species"
Dewey John
Husserl Edmund
Karl Marx: "Critique of Political Economy"
John Stuart Mill: "Essay on Liberty"
Tischendorf Konstantin
Codex Sinaiticus
Villari Pasquale
1859 Part III
Dickens: "A Tale of Two Cities"
Doyle Arthur Conan
Arthur Conan Doyle  
Duse Eleonora
George Eliot: "Adam Bede"
Edward Fitzgerald: "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam"
Ivan Goncharov: "Oblomov"
Hamsun Knut
Heidenstam Verner
Housman Alfred Edward
A.E. Housman 
"A Shropshire Lad", "Last Poems"
Victor Hugo: "La Legende des siecles"
Jerome K. Jerome
Tennyson: "Idylls of the King"
1859 Part IV
Corot: "Macbeth"
Gilbert Cass
Millet: "The Angelus"
Hassam Childe
Childe Hassam 
Seurat Georges
Georges Seurat
Whistler: "At the Piano"
Daniel Decatur Emmett: "Dixie"
Gounod: "Faust"
Verdi: "Un Ballo in Maschera"
1859 Part V
Arrhenius Svante
Kirchhoff Gustav
Curie Pierre
Drake Edwin
Drake Well
Plante Gaston
Lead–acid battery
Smith Henry John Stephen
Brunel Isambard Kingdom
Blondin Charles
Lansbury George
Samuel Smiles: "Self-Help"

The Crimean War
YEAR BY YEAR:  1800 - 1899
1850-1859  History at a Glance


A depiction of one of the many bloody battles during
the Taiping Rebellion.

IN THE SAME WAY CHINA HAD TRIED TO KEEP European ships from its ports, it had also tried to drive out Christian missionaries, thereby limiting the influence of Christianity.

Despite this, by the mid-19th century some 200,000 Chinese had been converted, and thousands more were familiar with the religion.

In 1850, officials sent troops to disband a religious society whose beliefs were loosely based on Protestant ideas.

This sect was led by Hong Xiuquan (1814-64) who, believing himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ, launched a revolt that became the Taiping Rebellion.

Drawn by his call to share property, many starving peasants joined the ranks and fighting went on for 14 years, claiming millions of lives.
Hong Xiuquan

Greatest extent (maroon) of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
1850 Laws of Thermodynamics

The proliferation of heat-powered engines in the 19th century allowed some thoughtful physicists to draw conclusions about the nature of heat and energy. In 1850, German physicist Rudolf Clausius first stated what would become the second law of thermodynamics, that "heat cannot pass from a colder to a hotter body." In other words, in the absence of outside sources of energy, entropy increases: Hot coffee grows cold, but cold coffee never becomes hotter.

Scottish scientist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, formulated another version of this law at about the same time and often shared credit for the second law. The articulation of this law followed on the heels of the discovery of the first law of thermodynamics by James Prescott Joule and Herrmann von Helmholtz. This law, often known as the conservation of energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; the generation of power is simply the conversion of energy from one form to another.


Charlotte Bronte, English novelist, on visiting the Great Exhibition


A hand-colored lithograph shows the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Hyde Park. Some six million people visited it in six months.

IN LONDON, THE WORLD WAS ON DISPLAY. An exhibition had been organized, billed as the "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations."

The Great Exhibition
, as it became known, was housed in the Crystal Palace, an exhibition hall made of glass and iron built for the occasion.

Some six million people pored over the 100,000 exhibitions between May 1 and October 31. Of the 14,000 participating exhibitioners, almost half were from overseas. An enormous variety of agricultural and manufactured items were on display, ranging from the Koh-i-Noor diamond from India to tapestries from Persia, and British engineering equipment.


In the same year as this global event, a telegraph cable was laid across the English Channel, facilitating rapid international communication.


Britain by this point had seen a large population boom and become more urbanized as agricultural workers moved to the cities to work in the growing number of factories.

Detailed censuses showed that the population of London had surged from about one million in 1801 to over two million by 1851.


In Australia, the discovery of gold in Victoria and New South Wales the same year prompted a gold rush that tripled the country's population over the next ten years.

1851 Taiping Rebellion

Beset by drought and famine, unable to fend off Western armies and Western opium imports, many Chinese were ready to hear words of hope from an unlikely prophet: Hong Xiuquan, the self-proclaimed younger brother of Jesus. Hong's visions had convinced him that he was sent to Earth to eradicate demons and establish the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, or the Taiping Tianguo. In the process, he planned to overthrow China's Qing rulers.

With his promises of economic and social equality, Hong attracted large numbers of followers, whom he pulled into a well-disciplined military organization. Beginning in 1851 and continuing for 14 destructive years, Hong's armies attacked towns and villages across China, occupying the city of Nanjing in 1853. Eventually his organization began to disintegrate and Hong himself withdrew from daily command. The rebellion ended with Hong's suicide in 1864. An estimated 20 to 30 million people had died in one of the bloodiest civil wars in history.

FOOTNOTE Hong's remarkably progressive philosophy recognized women as men's social and economic equals; he condemned slavery, concubinage, footbinding, torture, and opium smoking.

In Siam (Thailand], King Mongkut (1804-68) began his rule. His reign saw increased relations with the West.

During this period, he employed an English governess, Anna Leonowens (1831-1915), whose memoirs inspired the 20th-century musical The King and I.


King Mongkut of Siam, Bangkok


Anna Leonowens

1851 Rigoletto Premieres

On March 11, the first of Giuseppe Verdi's great middle-period operas, Rigoletto, had its premiere in Venice. The three-act work about a cursed court jester was a showcase for Verdi's talents, featuring a strong emphasis on drama, libretto, and melody. With its smooth integration of recitatives and arias into the action, the opera was emblematic of the way Verdi was moving on from the bel canto singing styles and stop-and-start action of earlier operas. Rigoletto and other great Verdi operas, such as Aida and La Traviata, were highly influential in establishing the grand opera tradition of high drama, big sets, and a broad use of the orchestra.

La Fenice's poster for the world premiere of Rigoletto, 1851
1851 Australian Gold Rush

Portly and ambitious, Australian Edward Hargraves learned the craft of panning for gold during an unsuccessful trip to Americas goldfields in 1850. Recognizing that the California terrain resembled that of Australia, he returned home determined to find gold in his native country. In 1851, he traveled to Bathurst in New South Wales with a guide, telling him (according to his memoirs): "This is a memorable day in the history of New South Wales, I shall be a baronet, you will be knighted, and my old horse will be stuffed, put in a glass case, and sent to the British Museum!" Hargraves did indeed find a few grains of gold in a creek—and the rush was on.

Over the next few years, gold was also discovered in Victoria and other parts of Australia. Immigrants flooded in: In two years, Victoria's population alone grew from 77,000 to 540,000. The economy boomed as railroads and telegraph lines followed the miners into the field, and the wave of newcomers, particularly Chinese immigrants, permanently transformed Australian society.

HOSTILITIES HAD ONCE AGAIN flared up between British troops and the Burmese. After making extensive territorial gains in the last war against Burma, Britain was eager to control more of the area. Wider control would create an overland coastal connection from Calcutta in Britain's Indian territory to the British port in Singapore. The East India Company also wanted access to the teak forests in Burma. In 1852, the British seized a ship belonging to Burma's king, and this was enough to start the Second Anglo-Burmese War. Lasting only a few months, British troops were able to take southern territory, ousting the reigning king, Pagan Min (1811-80), and installing his brother, Mindon Min (1814-78), who was willing to accept British control of the southern portion of the kingdom.


The Royal Navy played a significant role in
the Anglo-Burmese War.


In West Africa, in present-day Senegal, Muslim Tukulor chief Umar Tall (1797-1864) capitalized on unrest between the Dinguiraye and Bambara people to wage a jihad (holy war) on part of upper Senegal, taking control of the territory. His empire would eventually stretch to Timbuktu in present-day Mali. His rule was a time of further entrenchment of Islam in West Africa.


In South Africa, the British acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal after refusing to accept the previous Boer Republic of Natal. This was followed two years later with a similar acceptance of the settlers' new Orange Free State.

1852 Mount Everest Measured

Lost among the towering, frigid spires of the Himalaya, Peak XV was just another tall mountain until the Great Trigonometric Survey of India caught up with it. The Survey, which had been systematically measuring the Indian subcontinent for decades, reached Peak XV in 1852 and found it to be 29,002 feet high. The measurement, taken manually using a massive theodolite, was remarkably close to the height of 29,028 feet established 100 years later with more advanced technology. It was, and is, the tallest mountain in the world and the highest point on Earth. In 1865, apparently unaware that the mountain had the Tibetan name Chomolungma, the British surveyors renamed the mountain in honor of Sir George Everest, head of the Survey from 1830 to 1843.

FOOTNOTE Surveyors continue to revise Everest's official height. In 1954, it was declared to be 29,028 feet; in 1999, 29,035 feet. The mountain is also moving northeast at 2.4 inches a year.
1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin Published

Originally published in 40 weekly installments in the anti-slavery weekly The National Era, Uncle Tom's Cabin became an instant best seller when it appeared in book form in March 1852. Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter and sister of famed Congregational preachers, the sentimental novel depicting the cruelties of slavery sold 10,000 copies in the first week and two million copies by the 1860s.

The tale and its characters appeared in plays, songs, poems, even in games and on decorative plates. The influential book is credited with stoking national abolitionist fervor and contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

Little Eva and Uncle Tom by Edwin Longsden Long

Harriet Beecher Stowe


The cabin of Uncle Tom was a small log building, close adjoining to "the house," as the negro par excellence designates his master's dwelling. In front it had a neat garden-patch.... The whole front of it was covered by a large scarlet bignonia and a native multiflora rose, which, entwisting and interlacing, left scarce a vestige of the rough logs to be seen....

A table, somewhat rheumatic in its limbs, was drawn out in front of the fire.... At this table was seated Uncle Tom, Mr. Shelby's best hand, who, as he is to be the hero of our story, we must daguerreotype for our readers. He was a large, broadchested, powerfuily-made man, of a full glossy black, and a face whose truly African features were characterized by an expression of grave and steady good sense, united with much kindliness and benevolence. There was something about his whole air self-respecting and dignified, yet united with a confiding and humble simplicity.


Poster advertising an 1899 theatrical production o/Uncle Tom's Cabin


Commodore Perry arrives in Japan 1853

US COMMODORE MATTHEW PERRY (1794-1858) had been charged with opening up trade between the US and the secluded Japan. Japan had been under international pressure to open up its ports to foreign merchants for years. The Dutch, who were the only Europeans allowed very limited access to trade in Japan, sent a mission in 1844 urging the country's rulers to allow in more ships. This was followed by French and British requests for trading rights. A delegation from the US was sent away emptyhanded. However, the US government was eager to secure trading rights in East Asia and so sent Perry to further negotiate. He arrived on July 8 and refused to leave until he had delivered his letters. The Japanese relented after a few days and took his papers, which requested a trade treaty. They eventually consented to the terms, and the Treaty of Kanagawa was concluded the following year.


Commodore Matthew Perry brought Japan a railroad car as a gift.

As China was contending with the Taiping Rebellion, another uprising broke out in the
central and eastern provinces.

The rebels were composed of many outlaws, as well as peasants from famine-stricken areas. With the government otherwise engaged, the rebels were able to form armies and begin the Nien Rebellion. Over the course of the next 15 years they gained control of much of northern China, although they were eventually defeated.
1853 Brahms Meets Schumann

In April, 20-year-old German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms embarked on a musical tour of Germany in which he met composers Robert and Clara Schumann. Greatly impressed with the young man, Robert Schumann wrote an article that hailed Brahms's talents as a composer and launched his career. Brahms was heralded in the musical world as a champion of the classical tradition established by Mozart and Beethoven and an opponent of the Romantic and modernist tendencies exemplified by Lizst, for example. Brahms's profound and expressive compositions, such as his First Symphony and the German Requiem, wedded a new richness of harmony and tonal color to a classical sense of rhythm and structure.

Brahms in 1853
Robert Schumann in an 1850
1853 Perry Opens Japan

Japan in the mid-19th century was virtually closed to foreigners, and had been that way for more than 200 years. Only a few Dutch and Chinese traders entered Japanese harbors. So observers in Edo (Tokyo) Bay were shocked when, on July 8,1853, four black ships bristling with guns and emitting smoke cruised into the harbor.

The boats were commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States, who bore a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the emperor of Japan, requesting a treaty.
Perry refused Japanese orders to leave the harbor, insisting that he would deliver the letter by force, if necessary.

Having finally handed the letter to a reluctant pair of Japanese princes, Perry departed, leaving word that he would return for an answer. By the time he came back in 1854 with an even larger fleet, the Japanese government had realized it would have to concede the terms of the treaty. Without its own navy, Japan simply could not withstand an American attack.

The ensuing Treaty of Kanagawa opened up Japan to trade from the West and forcibly ended its self-imposed isolation. In the treaty, the Japanese agreed to admit U.S. ships to two ports, to allow American ships to pick up supplies and fuel in Japan, to give aid to any shipwrecked American sailors, and to accept the presence of a U.S. consul in their country.

Subsequent treaties with other Western nations followed, leading to a series of social and economic changes that would bring modernization to Japan.
Surprised onlookers watch American steamship
entering Japanese harbor.


Colin Campbell, Commander of the Highland Brigade, at the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854


The Crimean War

Brigadier Scarlett leads the British Heavy Brigade uphill at Balaclava, on October 25, 1854 against the Russians during the Crimean War.

THE TENSIONS THAT HAD BEEN mounting between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in the previous year spilled over into a war. Britain and France joined the fight from October. The conflict was fueled by the decision of Czar Nicholas I (1796-1855) to declare the right to protect Orthodox Christians living under Ottoman rule. When this claim was rejected by the Ottomans, Nicholas sent troops into Moldavia and Wallachia, and the Ottoman Empire declared war.


Siege of Sevastopol
By March 1854, Britain and France had also declared war on Russia, and in September they landed troops in Russia's Crimea territory and began a siege of Sevastopol.
1854 Sevastopol Under Siege

The central battle of the short-lived but bloody Crimean War, the siege of Sevastopol lasted from October of 1854 to September of 1855. The war had begun in 1853 when Tsar Nicholas I declared the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire to be under his protection. Fearing a Russian incursion into the region, Britain and France allied to drive the Russians back. Fifty thousand French and British troops laid siege to the vital Russian naval base of Sevastopol on the Black Sea, holding on despite heavy casualties in a winter for which they were ill prepared. After a year of bombardments and trench warfare, Russian troops sank their own ships in the harbor, blew up their fortifications, and left the city. The end of the war came soon afterward in 1856, with the Russians, at least temporarily, pushed back behind their borders.

Croat laborers photographed by Roger Fenton, whose depiction of the Crimean War earned him
the title of first war photographer
In October, a brigade of British troops at the Battle of Balaclava misinterpreted orders, charging down a valley instead of up it, allowing Russians to bombard the 673 soldiers on all sides. Had it not been for French intervention, the casualty rate would have been higher than 40 percent. This incident was memorialized in the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Battle of Balaclava. Ryzhov‘s cavalry attacks over the Causeway Heights at approximately 09:15.
Both branches of the attack happened almost simultaneously.
Austria threatened to enter the war against Russia in 1856 and a preliminary peace was arranged on February 1, followed by the March 30 Treaty of Paris.
The Crimean War was the first conflict to be covered by newspapers, which were taking advantage of the new telegraphic and photographic technology.

The war also established the reputation of the "Lady with the Lamp," British nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), whose reforms to field hospitals caused a dramatic reduction in deaths from disease during wartime. She helped promote nursing as a respectable career for women.

Florence Nightingale,
circa 1858
The Lady with the Lamp popular lithograph reproduction of a painting by Henrietta Rae, 1891.
1854 Cholera Source ID'd

An outbreak of cholera brought English anesthesiologist John Snow to London's Soho neighborhood in August. Snow had long held the unpopular belief that cholera was transmitted by unclean drinking water, rather than by "miasmas" in the air. By mapping the location of each case of cholera, Snow was able to tie the outbreak to a contaminated well on Broad Street as well as to the pipes of the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, a major water supplier. After his findings were presented to local officials, the Broad Street outbreak was ended by the simple method of removing the well's pump handle. Snow published a letter in the Medical Times that August that named the water company associated with the outbreaks, pointing out that a rival company filtered its water "much better than the Southwark and Vauxhall Company, and no doubt rid it to a much greater extent of the cholera evacuations which pass down the sewers into the Thames."

Snow was a pioneering advocate for filtration and sanitation in public water, although widespread use of chlorine and other cleansing agents did not begin until the early 20th century. His systematic approach to isolating the source of the disease, using statistics and mapping, was a model for future health officials; he is generally viewed as the father of modern epidemiology. The advent of sanitary water supplies is also considered one of the greatest health advances of recent centuries and was a major contributor to greatly increased life expectancies in the developed world during the 20th century.
1854 Logic, Math Linked

George Boole, an English mathematician, was the son of a tradesman and largely self-taught, but by the time he was in his 20s he was contributing important papers on differential equations and linear transformation to the Cambridge Mathematical Journal. In 1854 he published An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. In this book he pointed out that logical statements can be expressed mathematically, with algebraic symbols representing logical forms. This symbolic logic, now known as Boolean algebra, took on new life in the 20th century when it was shown that true-false statements could be represented by the on-off states of switches in electronic circuits: the basis for computer logic. Today, Boolean logic is used to expedite Internet searches, among many other applications.

FOOTNOTE Boole married his student, Mary Everest, niece of Sir George Everest, after whom the mountain is named. Their daughter, Alice Boole Stott, grew up to publish important papers on four-dimensional geometry.

Detail of stained glass window in Lincoln Cathedral dedicated to George Boole.
1855 Victoria Falls Named

Scottish missionary David Livingstone came to Africa in 1841 determined to spread Christianity and open up the continent's interior to commerce. In decades of hard-won travel from coast to coast, Livingstone filed dispatches to newspapers back home and also wrote several books about his travels, becoming the public face of African
exploration. One of his key discoveries took place on November 17, 1855, when he and his African guides reached massive waterfalls, known as "the smoke that thunders," on the Zambezi River.

"In looking down into the fissure," Livingstone wrote later, "on the right of the island, one sees nothing but a dense white cloud, which, at the time we visited the spot, had two bright rainbows on it. From this cloud rushed up a great jet of vapor exactly like steam, and it mounted 200 or 300 feet high; there condensing, it changed its hue to that of dark smoke, and came back in a constant shower, which soon wetted us to the skin."

It was, Livingstone, wrote, "the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa." The patriotic missionary named the torrent Victoria Falls. His accounts of this discovery and many others before his death in 1873 were influential in encouraging European intervention, well-meaning and otherwise, in the interior of Africa.
MISSIONARY DAVID LIVINGSTONE was exploring the interior of Africa on his second expedition. He was convinced a trade route to the sea existed, and sailed up the Zambezi River in November 1853 to find it. Two years later, he and his party came across a gigantic waterfall, known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, "the Smoke that Thunders." He was the first European to see the falls and renamed them Victoria Falls.

To the East, in Siam (Thailand), King Mongkut
, known for his interest in the West, signed commercial agreements with Britain and the US in an effort to open up Siamese trade.
A painting of King Mongkut of Siam,
who was also known as Rama IV.
1855 Inheritance Elucidated

The middle of the 19th century saw two of the most important discoveries in the history of life science: Gregor Mendel's enunciation of the principles of inheritance and Charles Darwin's explanation of natural selection. However, the first of these discoveries, Mendel's, did not reach public ears until well after his death.

Gregor Mendel was a brilliant and nervous Austrian monk with a background in mathematics, physics, and botany. In the 1850s the abbot of his monastery in Brunn asked him to apply his considerable scientific skills to the study of crossbreeding, in hopes that the monastery could improve its own stock of Merino sheep. Mendel decided to experiment with the fast-growing pea plants in the monastery garden.
At that time, most people believed that inherited traits were blends of parental traits: Red flowers and white flowers would produce pink flowers, for instance. However, when Mendel began carefully crossbreeding pea plants, the results surprised him.

Instead of producing even blends of the two parental traits, the daughter plants in the first generation possessed a single trait only. For instance, a smooth pea plant crossed with a wrinkled pea plant would produce all smooth pea plants.
Even more remarkably, when those first generation plants were allowed to pollinate among themselves, they produced smooth and wrinkled plants at a ratio of three to one.

From 1854 to 1856, Mendel studied 34 varieties of pea. Using combinatorial mathematics, he then outlined the laws of inheritance he observed. Rather than blending parental properties, the plants inherited two separate factors—now called genes—for each characteristic, one from each parent. One factor would be dominant and the other recessive.

Furthermore, traits were inherited separately and were not influenced by the others. Mendel presented his findings in 1865 to a natural history society in Briinn, where they received little attention.

Only in 1900, 16 years after Mendel's death, did other scientists rediscover his work and realize that the rules he had outlined would explain the inheritance of characteristics in evolution.
A pea flower in a spring garden, subject of Mendel's experiments
1855 Artists Get Real

French artist Gustave Courbet submitted 11 paintings of ordinary people—villagers, roadworkers, artists, and writers—to the Universal Exposition in Paris. When the exposition's jury rejected the simply executed, gritty paintings, Courbet set up his own rival Pavilion of Realism nearby, becoming the standard-bearer for the school of art known as realism.

Courbet's 1861 manifesto that "painting is an essentially concrete art and can only consist in the representation of real and existing things" rejected the Romantic and idealized art of recent decades in favor of an everyday, truthful representation of life. Other realists of the era included the satirical Honore Daumier and Jean-Franccois Millet, as well as Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas in their early works. England's pre-Raphaelites owed something to realism, though in a more ethereal form, as did American realists Thomas Eakins and James Whistler. By 1880, the movement was fading as Impressionism took hold.

FOOTNOTE Courbet's canvas "The Artist's Studio" was an allegory of his professional life. In it he is painting in a crowded room, some of whose occupants ignore him, while others are enthralled. A nude model languishes at his back.

IN NICARAGUA, US-BORN WILLIAM WALKER (1826-60), who had arrived in the country in 1855 with 58 men, declared himself president. He was initially invited by Francisco Castellon (1815-55), who had been trying to organize a liberal revolt.


Engraving depicts Walker’s troops entering the city of Granada.
(Scrapbook, John P. Heiss Papers, Tennessee Historical Society Collections)

This was a period of filibustering: attempts by privately funded mercenaries to take over small countries and annex them to the US.

Walker intended to establish Nicaragua as a slave state; southern US states wanted to enlarge slave-holding territory as abolitionism grew.

Walker was eventually captured by invading Costa Rican forces and later shot.
US filibusterer William Walker surrenders to
Costa Rican troops.
1856 Credit Plan Debuts

At $ 125, Isaac Singer's newly invented sewing machines were out of the reach of the average American consumer. So in 1856 Singer's company became the first to offer an installment credit plan, allowing buyers to pay for expensive items in affordable installments over time. Other merchants began to extend installment credit as well. In the years to come the practice allowed a wide range of consumers to raise their standards of living (and debt) by purchasing furniture, automobiles, and household appliances over time.
1856 Birth of Bessemer Converter

A prolific inventor, British engineer Sir Henry Bessemer garnered more than 110 patents in his lifetime, but the invention for which he is most famous is the steelmaking furnace now known as the Bessemer converter. Until the mid-1800s, the metal used in machinery, bridges, and weaponry was typically either cast iron or wrought iron; steel could only be produced through a slow, impractical process.

Bessemer experimented with the furnaces producing cast iron and discovered that a blast of air directed through the molten metal would burn out the impurities and separate the purified metal from the slag. He announced his discovery before the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1856. Although it was several more years before the process became foolproof, the technology of the Bessemer converter spread throughout Great Britain and the United States, aiding the spread of industrialization, and is still used in a modified form in today's steel mills.

FOOTNOTE Among Bessemer's other inventions were a telescope, a technique for forming graphite for pencils, a machine to extract juice from sugarcane, an artillery shell, gold paint, and a swinging boat cabin to counter seasickness.

Bessemer converter components

IN 1857, A RUMOR SPREAD THROUGH THE INDIAN TROOPS—known as sepoys—in the Bengal Army stationed at Meerut, Northern India. Their new rifle cartridges were reputed to be greased with pork and beef fat. The cartridges were for a new type of rifle, the Enfield, and to load them the ends of the paper cartridges needed to be bitten off. For Hindu and Muslim soldiers, allowing beef or pork fat in their mouths went against their respective religions beliefs. Added to this rumor were various other grievances, together with a growing suspicion that the British were also trying to undermine Indian culture and traditions. The soldiers refused to use the cartridges, and the subsequent dispute that broke out between Indian troops and British commanders sparked the revolt known as the Sepoy Rebellion (also known as the Indian Mutiny).


English painter Thomas Jones Barker's The Relief of Lucknow completed in 1859, depicts British forces defending this colonial city after the end of a prolonged siege during the Sepoy Rebellion.

The unrest lasted for more than a year, as the mutineers were joined by peasants angry at their exploitative landlords, as well as those who resented the recent British annexation of the north Indian region of Oudh. The rebels managed to capture Delhi and "restore" an aging Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1775-1862), to power, while killing the British in Delhi and the nearby cities of Kanpur and Lucknow.

The retaliation by the British army was similarly brutal, and they recaptured Delhi in September and Lucknow the following March. The revolt was suppressed by June 1858.


This conflict was the culmination of frustration with the East India Company's rule as well as creeping westernization as Britain annexed more territories and sent out more officials. The uprising provoked deep concern in Britain, and the East India Company was stripped of its power to control India. The Company by this point was hated throughout India, and the British government thought it could no longer be relied on to keep stability. The Mutiny had shown the level of Indian discontent and anger, which would continue to grow under British rule, while at the same time helping to fuel the independence movement.

1857 Rebellion in Bengal

Britain dominated India by the 1850s, exerting its control through the East India Company. Believing in the loyalty of the local troops (sepoys) that they had trained, company army officers were stunned when the sepoys in northern India rose up in revolt in 1857. The immediate cause of the mutiny was the new kind of cartridge issued for the sepoys' Lee-Enfield rifles. Rumors had spread that the cartridges, which had to be bitten open, contained pork and beef fat, the first anathema to Muslims and the second to Hindus. Indian troops killed British officers and took over the city of Delhi as the rebellion spread across the country. Bloody massacres and equally bloody reprisals took place on both sides before the British finally suppressed the revolt the following year and replaced East India Company control with direct rule by Britain.

In additon to the conflict in India, British troops had returned to battle in China. Britain demanded greater freedom of trade in China in the wake of the Treaty of Nanjing, but the Chinese resisted.
In 1856, the British sent an expedition with the French to attack Chinas ports, culminating in the Second Opium War.


Anglo-French forces attacked Canton in 1857. By the following year, the Treaties of Tianjin were negotiated between China, Britain, and France, as well as with Russia and the US. These agreements called for China to open more ports and to legalize opium importation. In addition, foreign diplomats were given the right to live in Peking. The Chinese refused to ratify these agreements until 1860.



Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case, April 1854


In the US, the abolitionist cause suffered a serious setback when a Supreme Court ruling in the case Dred Scott v. John F. A. Sandford declared slavery to be legal in all US territories. The case was brought by Dred Scott. He was taken by his owner, John Emerson, from the slave state of Missouri to the "free" Wisconsin territory, later returning to Missouri. Scott, with the aid of abolitionists, filed a lawsuit claiming the move from slave to free state had broken his chain of servitude.

The case reached the Supreme Court in 1857, where the justices voted against freeing Scott on the grounds that he was not entitled to rights as a US citizen, including the right to sue in a court of law. The judges also declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional because Congress could not deprive citizens of their property. It was up to the states to decide to ban slavery, and there was nothing to stop new territories becoming slave states.


Dred Scott

A slave in the US, Dred Scott sued his owner for his freedom.
The case went to the US Supreme Court,
where his emancipation was denied.
1857 Transatlantic Cable Laid

Before the invention of electric telegraphy, messages across the Atlantic typically took weeks to arrive. After Samuel Morse laid the first telegraph lines in 1844, the potential for using the new technology to communicate almost instantaneously across the ocean was apparent. In 1856, American Cyrus Field and Englishmen Charles Bright and John and Jacob Brett formed a company to lay down the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

In 1857, two ships, American and British, loaded up 2,500 nautical miles of cable and set sail from Ireland. Four hundred miles into the trip, the cable snapped. A second try in 1858 succeeded in laying only 140 miles before the cable snapped again. Finally, on August 5, 1858, the two ships reached their ports on opposite sides of the Atlantic without mishap. The message "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, good will to men" was sent across the ocean.

Even this success was short-lived, however. Within a few weeks the cable, stressed by high voltages, failed. Not until 1866 did a reliable transatlantic cable go into operation.
1857 Pasteur Studies Fermentation

Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, became one of the leading scientists of the 19th century with a series of breakthrough discoveries about molecular chemistry and microorganisms. The son of a tanner, he had a keen interest in the application of scientific principles to industrial processes, and in the 1850s he began to study fermentation in substances ranging from beer to milk. In 1857, after analyzing compounds produced during fermentation, Pasteur announced that the process was not strictly a chemical one, as had been previously thought: It involved minute living organisms, or "germs." The discovery led in the 1860s to the process now known as pasteurization, in which harmful microorganisms in food are killed through the application of heat.

Louis Pasteur. Photograph by Nadar


AFTER MEXICO'S DEFEAT BY THE US, many Mexicans were in favor of reform, including the middle-class liberal Benito Juarez (1806-72). Installed in the government as justice minister, Juarez and other liberals, including president Ignacio Comonfort (1812-63), drafted a new constitution curbing military and ecclesiastical privileges, such as the allocation of special courts for civil trials, and some landholding rights. The constitution, which also prohibited slavery and called for a democracy in Mexico, went into effect in 1857.


Benito Juarez

However, the Catholic Church and the military refused to accept these reforms, and the antagonism turned into the War of the Reform (1857-60). With the conservatives in charge of the military, the liberals found themselves pushed out of Mexico City, and were eventually forced to make a new capital at the port of Veracruz in 1858. The US decided to intervene in the conflict, recognizing the liberal government at Veracruz in 1859 and sending it much-needed arms. This aided the rebels in their retaliation, and they managed to defeat conservative forces. Juarez returned to Mexico City on January 1, 1861 as president, taking control of the whole country, and he once again put the constitution into effect.

A contemporary oil painting illustrates the 1860 Battle of Guadalajara during the
Mexican Reform War between liberals and conservatives.
France, meanwhile, was embroiled in battles not only in China, but in other kingdoms in East and Southeast Asia where the French sought a foothold in trade. France was concerned about the rise of Siamese power, as well as the continuing attacks on French missionaries in Vietnam. By the end of 1858, a Franco-Spanish expedition had seized the city of Da Nang in Vietnam, starting the Cochinchina Campaign. In 1859, the coalition captured the key port of Saigon, where a garrison of 1,000 troops later faced a year-long siege from 1860 to 1861. The war finally ended in a settlement with Vietnam's king, Tu Due (1829-83), in 1863, in which three provinces were ceded to France.

With the end of the East India Company's administration in 1857, India was governed directly from London by the Viceroy.

This was brought about on November 1, 1858 by governor-general Charles John Canning (1856-62) who became the first Viceroy of India.

The period, known as the Raj, lasted until Indian independence in 1947.

Throughout the 19th century European powers vied for control of the profitable trade routes from China through Southeast Asia. Goods such as spices were imported to Europe from colonies in Asia, while textiles were exported. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 made trade between Europe and Asia quicker and cheaper.

CONSTRUCTION WORK HAD FINALLY BEGUN ON A CANAL that would link the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It would cut voyages between Europe and Asia by thousands of miles by allowing ships to avoid sailing around the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1854, French official Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-94) managed to obtain permission from the khedive (viceroy) of Egypt, Said Pasha (1822-63), to construct a canal at Suez. In 1856, the Suez Canal Company [Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez] was set up and given the right to run the canal for 99 years after its completion.

US Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee smash the armory
door at Harper's Ferry, behind which John Brown and his men were besieged.

In the US, abolitionist John Brown (1800-59) attacked a federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia on the night of October 16. He also took more than 60 slave owners hostage, hoping that the slaves of these people would join his cause. They were attacked by the local militia and the rebellion was finally ended by federal troops, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee. Of the 22 men who participated in the raid, 10 were killed, including Brown's two sons. Brown himself was later hanged.


John Brown, American abolitionist, before his execution, December 2, 1859


John Brown in 1859
Meanwhile, in England, naturalist Charles Darwin cemented his reputation with the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. The work explained the process of evolution and he set out his ideas about species adaptation and the survival of the fittest.

British cartoonists presented Darwin's theory
in an unthreatening way.
1859 Oil Drilling Begins

The petroleum industry began in the wooded hills of northwestern Pennsylvania in August 1859, when American entrepreneur Edwin L. Drake struck oil in the little town of Titusville.

Building the first well specifically designed to find oil, Drake tapped into a petroleum deposit that yielded about 20 barrels a day.

Drake's oil well became the first of many as the petroleum industry spread around the world in the second half of the 19th century.

Neither safety nor conservation was an issue in the early days of oil drilling.

Thick forests of oil derricks sprang up in Titusville, draining resources and prompting fires.

Drake's first well burned to the ground soon after being built.
Drake (right) in front of the well

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