History of the World in Objects and Art

20 000BC      
1200BC 800 1455 1820
700BC 1070 1500 1840
350BC 1205 1530 1868
200BC 1260 1600 1890
100BC 1290 1685 1910
30 1350 1755 1920
600 1400 1800 1950
History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

The Modernization of Japan
The Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War

The Taking of Rome

Czarist Russia was a major power, holding territory in Europe and Asia, and establishing a court with international interests. However, reform and counter-reform led to upheaval, assassinations, and political intrigue. Combined with the ravages of war, these gave rise to a revolution that ended Romanov rule.
Czar Peter the Great, the sole ruler of Russia from 1699 to 1721, laid the foundations for imperial expansion with wide-ranging reforms. These affected the armed forces, the administration, education, and social customs, and propelled his country into the mainstream of European culture. This modernizing autocrat built St. Petersburg as a new capital city oriented toward the West, unlike the more tradition-bound Moscow. The monarchy was strengthened under Catherine the Great in the later 18th century, who consolidated power and culture around her court.

In contrast, despite some early attempts at reform, many landholders continued to hold significant numbers of serfs into the 19th century. Alexander II issued a proclamation abolishing serfdom in 1861 but was assassinated soon afterward. His death brought caution and reaction from his successors, including some censorship from Alexander III. Nicholas II was not prepared for the transfer of power to his shoulders after the early death of his father Alexander III, but his reign did start an increase in industrialization, with growth in foreign investment and the expansion of the railroads to transport goods.


Russian expansion grew from the powerful armed forces established by Peter the Great. In the 19th century, the tide of expansion turned eastward, with the conquest of territory in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the opening up of Siberia. However, the resulting acquisition of resources was not accompanied by a program to maximize their benefits for the giant empire that Russia had become.


The political demands of the late 19th century, brought about by rising numbers of industrial workers and continued agrarian reform, coexisted with great artistic ferment. By the early 20th century, St. Petersburg was a cultural center, and Russian artists were admired all over Europe. Although there was some industrialization and real economic progress, the rigidity of czarist autocracy meant Russia's future lay in violent revolution.

The Proclamation of the German Empire

The Commune

Birth of the Second International

In the early 19th century, Sikh leader Maharajah Ranjit Singh, known as "the Lion of the Punjab," created a powerful state in northwest India. However, weakened by internal power struggles and eventually defeated in wars with external forces, the Sikh Empire did not long outlive its founder.
The decline of the Indian Mughal Empire in the 18th century allowed competing Sikh leaders to rale areas of the Punjab. In 1799, Ranjit Singh, one of these leaders, captured Lahore, part of present-day Pakistan. In 1801, he crowned himself Maharajah of Punjab, founding a unified Sikh state. He embarked on military campaigns against the Afghans and Rajputs, extending his rule as far north as Kashmir, west to the Khyber Pass, and east to the Tibet border. Maharajah Ranjit Singh did not attempt to impose the Sikh faith, 70 percent of whom were Muslims. However, he did ban certain Muslim customs, including the call to prayer by the muezzin and the killing of cattle.


A murderous conflict of succession broke out following the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh in 1839. After a welter of assassinations, five-year-old Duleep Singh, Maharajah Ranjit Singh's youngest child, came to power in 1843. Effective control devolved to the army, which declared itself the true embodiment of the Sikh people. This turmoil within the Sikh Empire exacerbated tensions with the British, who had recently extended their control of India to include Sindh, on the empire's southern border.

In 1846, British forces were victorious in the First Anglo-Sikh War. The Sikh Empire had to cede large areas of territory and accept supervision of their government by a British Resident. A Sikh uprising led to the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1848-49, at the end of which Punjab was absorbed into British India.
Crafted in gold
The Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, known as the Golden Temple, is one of the most prominent Sikh places of worship. Maharajah Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, was responsible for embellishing it with marble and decorative gilding in the early 19th century.

In 1757, the British East India Company changed from a trading enterprise into the ruler of the Indian subcontinent. Eventually, India passed from the Company to the Crown, and Britain's Queen Victoria was declared Empress of the Raj, which included modern-day Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Burma, as well as India.
By 1750, the decline of the Mughal Empire had left the Indian subcontinent politically fragmented, with European traders controlling scattered coastal enclaves. The British and French fought to extend their influence, forging alliances with rival Indian rulers. A series of victories left the British dominant by 1818, with their East India Company in effect acting as the government's agent in India. After the suppression of the 1857 rebellion, which began as a revolt by Indian soldiers in the British army, India came under direct British rule.


Britain's Indian Raj was politically complex. In addition to British direct rule of territories, more than 600 Indian princely states remained partially independent. Along with the recruitment of Indians into the army, police, and lower ranks of the civil service, this arrangement let Britain run its empire with very little British manpower. In 1900, some 300 million Indians were ruled by 20,000 British officials and army officers. The British believed they were bringing progress through honest administration, economic and technological development, and modern education for an Indian elite. Yet British policies left the majority of the Indian population in poverty and did nothing to prevent famines that killed millions.

Nationalist sentiment grew under the Raj. In 1885, the Indian National Congress, a pan-Indian political party, was founded. Agitation for freedom from foreign rule grew, and hostilities increased during the 20th century until Indian independence from Britain was realized in 1947.
Pomp and splendor
Held in 1877, 1903, and 1911, the Delhi Durbars were ceremonial occasions at which British monarchs were proclaimed Emperor or Empress of India. The 1903 Durbar, following the accession of Edward VII, was a spectacular display of the wealth and power of the Raj.

In the second half of the 19th century, Japan carried through a rapid modernization of its economy and society. With a strong centralized government that promoted the growth of industry, it was also able to create a powerful army and navy. Instead of falling prey to foreign imperialists, Japan became the first non-Western country to consolidate its power in the industrial age.
From 1641 into the 1850s, the ruling Tokugawa shoguns strictly limited the flow of trade and information between Japan and the outside world. This policy was in many ways a success. At the start of the 19th century, Japan had an effective government system. The daimyo (feudal lords) in the provinces provided strong local government under the shogunate in Edo (Tokyo). The emperor in Kyoto was a powerless figurehead, and the numerous samurai warriors had mutated into a high-status class of officials who wore swords only as a mark of rank. A commercial class, with wealth but low status, inhabited flourishing cities. In 1800, Edo probably had a larger population than London or Paris. Entertainers, artists, and craftsmen flourished, servicing the needs of this commercial class and the samurai.


In the first half of the 19th century, however, an urgent need for change was felt. There were agricultural crises, and revolts by peasants and the urban poor. The shogunate was aware that Europeans had attacked China, and worried that Japan might face the same challenge. In 1853, the arrival of an American naval squadron led by Commodore Matthew Perry triggered a political crisis, as the ruling elite debated a response to Perry's demand for the opening of Japan to foreign trade. The Tokugawa regime decided on concessions to the foreigners under duress. In reaction against this policy, a revolt led by samurai from the Satsuma region eventually overthrew the Tokugawa in 1868.

The rebels brought the emperor from Kyoto to Tokyo, claiming to restore imperial rule, although in reality they ruled themselves in the emperor's name. Instead of carrying out a conservative reaction against change, however, the leaders of the Meiji Restoration initiated a rapid program of economic growth and social reform. They realized that only by learning from foreigners could Japan become strong enough to resist foreign domination and assert its national independence.


By 1873 the Meiji government had extended equal citizenship to all Japanese, abolished the regional rule of the daimyo, introduced universal elementary education, established a postal system and electric telegraph service, and laid the foundations for a mass conscript army and a modern navy. In 1877, a samurai revolt against social reforms that destroyed their privileged status was crushed. Foreign experts, technology, and money were brought in to kick-start the development of a modern industrial economy, but the process was controlled and directed by the Japanese. Former samurai joined with the pre-Meiji commercial class to provide a body of entrepreneurs who developed factories and trade, with large-scale backing from the Japanese government. From the 1880s, cotton-spinning and silk manufacture grew rapidly into major export industries, alongside an armaments industry supplying the Japanese armed forces.
As the Japanese recovered confidence, they began to emphasize their distinctive national culture. Western methods were employed pragmatically, but a reassertion of Japanese traditions became central to the ideology of the Meiji era. Thus the emperor emerged both as a European-style constitutional monarch and a sacred ruler at the focus of state-sponsored Shinto religious rituals.