It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men. — Thucydides

Timelines of British Empire

    Foundation of Empire     Height of Empire     Australasia     Colonies and Canada     British India     Colonial Africa     Science and Invention     Great War

Foundation of Empire—1707 to 1815

Act of Union to Battle of Waterloo

AD YearEvent

Domestic Politics

1707 England and Scotland unite to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
1714 George I, first Hanoverian King, appointed by parliament; Robert Walpole first Prime Minister.
1727-1760 Reign of George II — Parliament controled by Whig party.
1760-1820 Reign of George III — King sought to control Parliament, favored Tory party.
1757 William Pitt the Elder, becomes Secretary of State, later Prime Minister of England.
1782 William Pitt the Younger becomes Prime Minster of England.
1798 Serious rebellion in Ireland is put down by Britain; Irish parliment dissolved.

Wars and Conflicts

1715 Old Pretender incites the First Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.
1739-48 War of the Austrian Succession—Britain allies with Austria to fight France.
1745 Young Pretender incites the Second Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.
1756-63 Seven Year's War in Europe, a.k.a. French Indian Wars in America, Carnatic Wars in India
1757 Clive's victory at Plassey, wins Bengal in India for Britain.
1759 Wolfe's capture of Quebec, wins French Canada for Britain.
1759 Hawke's victory at Qiberon Bay, destroys French Sea Power.
1776-83 American Revolutionary War begins when American colonists Declare their Independence.
1777 France allies with the colonies against Britain following the Battle of Saratoga.
1781 General Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary war.
1792-1802 French Revolutionary Wars France gains territory in Europe but looses control of colonies.
1797 Battles of St. Vincent and Camperdown give Britain control of the sea.
1798 Battle of the Nile destroys Napoleon plans to takeover Egypt.
1801 Battle of Copenhagen destroys French naval power in the North Sea.
1802-14 Napoleonic Wars drag all of Europe into turmoil.
1805 A naval victory at Trafalgar under Horatio Nelson destroys French naval power.
1808 Peninsular War begins in Spain—Duke of Wellington helps drive the French out of Spain.
1814 Wellington and Marshal Blucher defeat Napoleon at Waterloo.

Exploration and Discovery

1764 James Hargreaves invents the Spinning Jenny.
1771 Captain Cook discovers Australia, New Zealand.
1784 James Watt invents the Steam Engine—ushers in the industrial revolution.

Arts and Culture

1755 Samuel Johnson publishes Dictionary of English Language.
1776 Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations, revolutionizes ideas about commerce, taxes, and economics.

Height of Empire—1815 to 1902

End of Napoleonic Wars to Second Boer War

AD YearEvent

Domestic Politics

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.
1846 Potato Famine in Ireland; Repeal of the Corn Laws enhances Free Trade.
1851 The Great Exhibition opens in the Crystal Palace in London
1868-74 First Ministry of William Gladstone—promotes a liberal reform agenda.
1874-80 Second Ministry of Benjamin Disraeli—promotes a conservative imperial agenda.
1875 Egyptian Share of Suez canal is sold to Britain.
1887 Fiftieth year Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
1901 Death of Queen Victoria

Wars and Conflicts

1842 Retreat from Afghanistan—Massacre of British Army at Kyber Pass.
1854-56 Crimean War—Britain allies itself with Ottomans to oppose Russian expansion.
1857 Indian Mutiny —rebellion of Sepoys put down with great slaughter.
1879 Zulu Wars—British prevail over Zulus after suffering a massacre at Isandhlwana
1880 First Boer War—British concede to Boer demands after suffering serious defeats.
1882 Arabi's Rebellion put down at the Battle of Tel-al-Kebar.
1883-1904 Soudan Campaign—British quell a murderous Moslem fanatic cult in the Soudan.
1885 Death of Charles Gordon at the Siege of Khartoum—British relief fails to arrive in time.
1898 Horatio Kitchener defeats the rebel Madhists at the Battle of Obdurman.
1899-1901 Second Boer War—Hard fought victory forces the Boers to submit to British rule.

Exploration and Discovery

1852 David Livingstone begins his first expedition into Africa.
1858 The first trans-Atlantic cable is laid from Ireland to Newfoundland.

Arts and Culture

1870 Death of Charles Dickens, popular British novelist.

Australasia—1770 to 1907

Voyage of Captain Cook to New Zealand Dominion

AD YearEvent


1642 Abel Tasman, a Dutch sailor, discovers Tasmania, New Zealand and the Fiji islands.
1688 William Dampier explores western coast of Australia, circumnavigates globe.
1769 First voyage of Captain Cook — sails into Poverty Bay in New Zealand, charts coast of Australia.
1773 Third voyage of Captain Cook — returns to New Zealand, crewmen killed in skirmish with natives.

Settlement of Australia

1788 Arthur Philip establishes first settlement in Australia, a penal colony, north of Botany Bay
1798 Matthew Flinders explore coast of Australia, circumnavigate island of Tasmania.
1801 George Bass and Matthew Flinders first expedition around the coast of Australia.
1801 John McArthur develops Australia's sheep and wool producing trade.
1808 Rebellion occurs in Sydney when governor prohibits sale of Rum.
1824 Penal colony established near Brisbane. First settlement in Queensland.
1850 Edward Hargraves announces discovery of gold in Australia.
1851 'Black Thursday' brushfires destroy much of Victoria.
1854 Rebellion of gold-miners against government at the Eureka stockade.
1880 Notorious outlaw, Ned Kelly is hanged.
1895 First performance of Waltzing Matilda, Australian national anthem.
1900 Australia gains a constitution and independent parliament.
1902 Breaker Morant, Australian folk hero, executed for war crimes in South Africa.

Settlement of New Zealand

1780+ Whalers and sealers use ports off North Island, establish trade with natives.
1814 Samuel Marsden establishes a mission on north Island, introduces sheep, cattle, and grains.
1814 Hongi Hika, a Maori chieftain, visits England and Australia, obtains muskets, becomes a warloard.
1821 Musket Wars between armed Maori tribes, led by Hongi Hika, and unarmed tribes.
1832 James Busby appointed first British 'resident' but without resources to calm tribal wars.
1835 Maori raid of Chatham Island. All natives are killed or enslaved by Maoris.
1839 Edward Wakefield forms private association, the New Zealand company, to colonize the territory.
1840 William Hobson induces chieftains to sign Treaty of Waitangi, establishing British sovereignty.
1841 First British capital established at Auckland.
1845 Flagstaff War, led by Hone Heke, first major uprising against British, takes a year to subdue.
1845 George Grey becomes governor, serves as governor or in Parliament for next 34 years.
1846 Land war in the Hutt Valley near Wellington.
1852 Local parliament established.
1853 Maori chiefs attempt to unifiy under a king, prohibit sale of land to whites.
1860 Taranaki War breaks out over land disputes.
1865 Government moved to Wellington.
1868 Te Kooti rebellion, Maori seats established in Parliament
1870 Last British troops leave New Zealand, government and militia sufficent to keep order.
1888 New Guinea becomes a crown colony.

Colonies and Canada—1585 to 1885

Roanoke Colony to Saskatchewan Rebellion

AD YearEvent


1497 John Cabot claims Newfoundland for England.
1534 Jacques Cartier explores Gulf of St. Lawrence on first voyage.
1576 Martin Frobisher searches for the Northwest Passage.
1583 Humphrey Gilbert attempts to found colony in Newfoundland.
1611 Henry Hudson is killed by a mutinous crew in Hudson Bay.
1789 Alexander Mackenzie crosses Canada, discovers Mackenzie River and Artic Ocean.
1792 George Vancouver discovers Vancouver Island and Puget Sound.

French colonies

1542 Jacques Cartier fails to establish permanent colonies on third voyage.
1562-98 French Wars of religion interrupt settlement. Huguenots forbidden to emigrate.
1608 Samuel de Champlain establishes a French colony at Quebec; becomes capital of New France.
1615 First Catholic missionaries sent to New France to convert natives.
1632 Colony at Port Royal on Bay of Fundy re-established; becomes capital of Acadia.
1646 Saint Isaac Jogues, missionary to the Hurons, tortured, martyred by Mohawks.
1682-92 Count Frontenac first term as governor of New France. Protects colonists from Iroquois.
1755-63 French Indian Wars results in loss of French colonies in America.
1755 Defeat of British General Braddock at Battle of Fort Duquesne.
1755 Acadians from Nova Scotia forced to relocate.
1759 At the Battle of Quebec General Wolfe wins New France for the British.

British Canada

1670 Hudson Bay Trading Company chartered by Charles II.
1763 Treaty of Paris grants New France to Britain on condition of religious liberty for Catholics.
1776 Canada declines to revolt against Britain, due to British toleration for French Catholics.
1783 Emigration of Tories in lower colonies to Canadian dominions after Revolutionary War.
1791 Former territories of New France partitioned into Lower and Upper Canada.
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 Albert join Canadian Federation.
1949 Newfoundland joins Canadian Federation.

British India—1526 to 1914

Baber founds Moghul Empire to First World War

AD YearEvent
1497 Vasco da Gama establishes a trade-route by sea between Portugal and India.
1510 Alfonso de Albuquerque Conquers Goa and establishes a permanent Portuguese colony.

Mughal Empire: 1526-1740

1526 Baber founds the Mughal empire in India.
1566-1605 Reign of Akbar greatest of the Mughal emperors.
1658-1707 Reign of Aurangzeb—strict adherence to Islamic law alienates Hindu subjects.
1674 Shivaji founds the Maratha empire in the Deccan as the Mughul empire began to collapse.
1739 Nadir Shuh, a Persian general invades India, sacks Delhi, and steals the Peacock throne.

Early British Era: 1740-1815

1600 British East India Company granted a charter.
1612 First British trading post established at Surat.
1650 More British trading Trading posts established at Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.
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 the traitor Mir Jafar, 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 Victories over the Mahratta kingdoms in the Deccan increase Britain's influence in central India.
1799 Death of Tipu Sultan bring thirty years of wars with the Mysore Kingdome in southern India to a close.

Later British Era: 1815-1947 AD

1842 First Anglo-Afghan War—Massacre at Khyber Pass.
1845 Sikh Wars results in the annexation of Punjab.
1852 Burmah 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.

Colonial Africa—1770 to 1910

Discovery of Blue Nile to Union of South Africa

AD YearEvent

Dutch South Africa

1652 Dutch East India company establishes colony at Cape Town under Jan van Riebeck.
1691 Simon van der Stel appointe first Dutch governor of Cape Colony.

British South Africa

1795 British gain control of Cape Colony during French Revolutionary Wars.
1815-35 The Zulus, under Chaka, become the predominant tribe in Southeast Africa.
1833 Slavery prohibited in English colonies. Boers forced to give up slaves.
1835-45 Great Boer Trek, from Cape Colony to Natal; then to the Transvaal.
1837 Zulus, under Dingan, murders 400 Boers; later defeated at the Battle of Blood River.
1843 British annexes Natal, makes Boer settlement of Pietermaritzburg their capital.
1867 Discovery of diamond mines in Kimberly, disputed territory between Boers and British.
1879 After suffering a horrendous massacre at Isandhlwana, Britain subdues the Zulus.
1880 First Boer War ends in victory for the Boers after Battle of Majuba hill.
1880 Cecil Rhodes opens De Beers mining company and corners the diamond market.
1885 Discovery of gold in the Boer Republic; Johannesburg grows around mines.
1885 Rhodes establishes a British Protectorate for Bechuanaland.
1895 Jameson raid on Johannesburg fails to incite an anti-Boer uprising.
1899-1902 Second Boer War—hard fought struggle ends in a British victory and loss of the Boer republics.
1910 Union of South Africa.

Egypt/Sudan Protectorate

1805 Mehemet Ali becomes general-governor of Egypt, initiates Western Reforms.
1811 Massacre of the Mamluk leaders of Egypt at the Cairo Citadel.
1822 Egypt establishes cotton as cash crop for profitable trade with Britain.
1840 British merchants establish overland passenger and mail route to Orient over Suez.
1859 Construction of Suez canal begins under dirction of French engineers.
1863 British influence increases as Khedive borrows money for infrastructure and military.
1873 Charles Gordon accepts service with the Khedive, made governor-general of Sudan.
1879 Arabi Revolt against Western interference put down by Britain;
1882 Egypt becomes a British protectorate. British financiers take control of government finances.
1885 Charles Gordon killed during siege of Khartoum during Mahdist Rebellion.
1898 Britain defeats Mahdist rebels at the Battle of Omdurman, retakes control of Sudan.

Exploration of Central Africa

1770 James Bruce discovers the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia.
1796 Mungo Park discovers the of Niger, and explores the Niger basin.
1852 Dr. 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, discovery of Victoria Falls.
1874 H. M. Stanley starts his expedition down the Congo River.

British West Africa

1864 Third Anglo-Ashanti War, fought for control of trade in the Gold Coast.
1896 Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War.

Science and Invention—1660 to 1914

Isaac Newton to Great War

AD YearEvent

Invention and Industry

1764 James Hargreaves invents the Spinning Jenny, allowing multiple threads of yarn.
1769 Richard Arkwright designs a water frame that made it possible to spin strong threads.
1781 James Watt invents the Steam Engine—ushers in the industrial revolution.
1793 Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, greatly lowering the price of cotton.
1807 Robert Fulton runs the first steam propelled boat on the Hudson river.
1821 George Stephenson creates the first practical railroad locomotive; ushers in age of railways.
1844 Charles Goodyear receives a patent for vulcanized rubber.
1847 Cyrus McCormick establishes a mechanical reaper business in Chicago, revolutionizes agriculture.
1851 Elias Howe invents sewing machine, but Isaac Singer succeeds in selling his version.
1858 Cyrus Field lays the first trans-Atlantic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland.
1865 Henry Bessemer invents a process that greatly improves production of steel.
1893 Rudolf Diesel invents an internal combustion engine.

Electromagnetism and Communication

1800 Alexander Volta invents the first electric battery.
1831 Michael Faraday invents a dynamo which uses electromagnetic induction to create a current.
1836 Samuel Morse invents the telegraph. First Washington to Baltimore telegraph in 1844.
1873 James Clerk Maxwell proposes a theory of electromagnetism.
1876 Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for the telephone.
1879 Thomas Edison produces the first practical light bulb.
1897 Guglielmo Marconi perfects wireless telegraphy.

Advances in Medicine

1628 William Harvey publishes 'De Motu Cordis" detailing operation of heart and circulatory system.
1796 Edward Jenner develops the first small pox vaccine.
1861 Louis Pasteur establishes Germ theory, and develops methods for sterilization.
1928 Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin, an antibiotic substances that kills bacteria.

Astronomy and Heliocentric Theory

1543 Nicholas Copernicus publishes his theory of a heliocentric universe.
1609 Johannes Kepler publishes 'Astronomia Nova, a book detailing his theory of eliptical planetary orbits.
1633 Galileo Galilei is subjected to the Inquisition for promoting heliocentric theory.
1687 Isaac Newton publishes Principia his universal laws of motion.
1781 William Herschel discovers of Uranus, improves telescope.

Science and Discovery

1789 Antoine Lavoisier discovers the element oxygen and law of conservation of mass.
1805 John Dalton develops the Atomic Theory of chemistry.
1827 Amedeo Avogadro defines the Gas Law relating volume to number of gas molecules.
1848 Lord Kelvin establishes the value of absolute zero.
1859 Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species.
1865 Gregor Mendel develops laws of inheritance, establishes basis for genetics.
1898 J. J. Thomson discovers electrons, proposes the Plum pudding model of an atom.
1898 Madame Curie discovers polonium, radium, and coins the term "radioactivity".
1900 Max Planck develops law of black body radiation, basis for quantum theory.
1909 Robert Millikan conducts an oil drop experiment, determines charge of electrons.
1913 Niels Bohr establishes the Bohr Model of the atom, proposing electronic orbitals.
1915 Albert Einstein proposes a general theory of relativity.

Great War—1901 to 1921

Death of Victoria to Aftermath of Great War

AD YearEvent

Events Leading up to the War

June, 1914 Assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by Serbian secret society.


Aug 3 Germany declares War on France, invades neutral Belgium.
Aug 20 Germany enter Brussels after ignoring protests. England declars War on Germany.
Sep 6 First Battle of Marne—French Victory; Germans retreat to Western Front.
Dec 24 First German air-raid on Britain, civilian cities targeted.


Apr 17 Battle of Ypres—First use of poison gas.
Apr-Dec Battle of Gallipoli, costly defeat for allies against Turkey.
May 7 British passenger liner Lusitania sunk by the Germans.
May 23 Italy enters war on the side of the allies.
Oct 13 German execute Edith Cavell, a British nurse, for helping soldiers escape Belgium.
Oct 14 Bulgaria enters the war on the side of the central powers.


Feb-July Battle of Verdun, failed German offensive, over 1 million killed .
May 31 Largest naval battle of the war off the coast of Jutland.
Jul-Nov Battle of Somme, failed British offensive, over 500 thousand killed.
Aug 29 Hindenberg takes supreme command of German armies.


Mar 11 Bagdhad captured by British.
Apr 6 America declares War on Germany .
Jul 20 Kerensky succeeds as premier of Russia
Nov 7 Overthrow of Kerensky by the Bolsheviks—Russia withdraws from the war.


Apr 9 German offensive between Ypres and Arras.
May 27 German offensive near Chateau-Thierry and Marne River.
Jun 11 American offensive in Belleau Wood.
Jul 18 Second Battle of Marne—Allied Victory.
Sep 22 British victory over the Ottomans in Palestine.
Oct 1 Hindenberg Line taken by the French.
Oct-Nov German losses at Laon, Ostend, Lille, Aleppo.
Nov 11 Armistice signed between Allies and German powers.