18th century

The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 (MDCCI) to December 31, 1800 (MDCCC). During the 18th century, elements of Enlightenment thinking culminated in the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. During the century, slave trading and human trafficking expanded across the shores of the Atlantic, while declining in Russia,[1] China,[2] and Korea. Revolutions began to challenge the legitimacy of monarchical and aristocratic power structures, including the structures and beliefs that supported slavery. The Industrial Revolution began during mid-century, leading to radical changes in human society and the environment.

Political boundaries at the beginning of year 1700
Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, an iconic event of the French Revolution.
Development of the Watt steam engine in the late 18th century was an important element in the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
The American Revolutionary War took place in the late 18th century.

Western historians have occasionally defined the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 1715–1789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution, with an emphasis on directly interconnected events.[3][4] To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century[5] may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815[6] or even later.[7]

The period is also known as the "century of lights" or the "century of reason". In continental Europe, philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. For some, this dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though this was later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but in the wake of the French Revolution they feared loss of power and formed broad coalitions to oppose the French Republic in the French Revolutionary Wars.

The 18th century also marked the end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an independent state. Its semi-democratic government system was not robust enough to rival the neighboring states of the Prussia, Russia, and Austria, which partitioned the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth between themselves, changing the landscape of Central Europe and politics for the next hundred years.

The Ottoman Empire experienced an unprecedented period of peace and economic expansion, taking part in no European wars from 1740 to 1768. As a result, the empire was not exposed to Europe's military improvements of the Seven Years' War. The Ottoman Empire military consequently lagged behind and suffered several defeats against Russia in the second half of the century. In Southwest and Central Asia, Nader Shah led successful military campaigns and major invasions, which indirectly led to the founding of the Durrani Empire.

The European colonization of the Americas and other parts of the world intensified and associated mass migrations of people grew in size as part of the Age of Sail. European colonization intensified in present-day Indonesia, where the Dutch East India Company established increasing levels of control over the Mataram Sultanate. Mainland Southeast Asia would be embroiled in the Konbaung–Ayutthaya Wars and the Tây Sơn rebellion, while in East Asia, the century marked the High Qing era and the continual seclusion policies of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Various conflicts throughout the century, including the War of the Spanish Succession and the French and Indian War saw Great Britain triumphing over its European rivals to become the preeminent colonial power in Europe. However, Britain lost its colonies in North America after the American Revolutionary War, which went on to form the United States, initiating the decolonization of the Americas. The European colonization of Australia and New Zealand began during the late half of the century.

In the Indian subcontinent, the death of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb marked the end of medieval India and the beginning of an increasing level of European influence and control in the region, which coincided with a period of rapid Maratha expansion. After the reign of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire became less powerful. In 1739, Nader Shah invaded and defeated the Mughal Empire. Later, his general Ahmad Shah Abdali scored another defeat against the Mughals in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.[8] By the middle of the century, the British East India Company began to conquer the eastern parts of India, a process which accelerated after their victory over the Mughal emperor, Nawab of Bengal and their French allies at the Battle of Plassey.[9][8] Mughal emperor transformed into mere puppet of British.[8] By the end of the century, Company rule in India had come to cover more regions within South Asia, the British would also expand to the south, participating in the Anglo-Mysore Wars against the Kingdom of Mysore, governed by Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali.[10][11]



Europe at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700
The Battle of Poltava in 1709 turned the Russian Empire into a European power.


Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Literary and philosophical achievements

Musical works


  1. Volkov, Sergey. Concise History of Imperial Russia.
  2. Rowe, William T. China's Last Empire.
  3. Anderson, M. S. (1979). Historians and Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1715–1789. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822548-5. OCLC 185538307.
  4. Ribeiro, Aileen (2002). Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe 1715–1789 (revised ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09151-9. OCLC 186413657.
  5. Baines, Paul (2004). The Long 18th Century. London: Arnold. ISBN 978-0-340-81372-0.
  6. Marshall, P. J., ed. (2001). The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume II: The Eighteenth Century (Oxford History of the British Empire). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-924677-9. OCLC 174866045., "Introduction" by P. J. Marshall, page 1
  7. O'Gorman, Frank (1997). The Long Eighteenth Century: British Political and Social History 1688–1832 (The Arnold History of Britain Series). A Hodder Arnold Publication. ISBN 978-0-340-56751-7. OCLC 243883533.
  8. Chandra, Bipin. Mordern India. India.
  9. Campbell, John; Watts, William (1760). Memoirs of the Revolution in Bengal, anno Dom. 1757. A. Millar, London.
  10. Parthasarathi, Prasannan (2011), Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600–1850, Cambridge University Press, p. 207, ISBN 978-1-139-49889-0
  11. Allana, Gulam (1988). Muslim political thought through the ages: 1562–1947 (2 ed.). Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania: Royal Book Company. p. 78. ISBN 9789694070919. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  12. "War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–1714". Historyofwar.org. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  13. Ricklefs (1991), page 82
  14. Historic uk – heritage of britain accommodation guide (2007-05-03). "The history of Scotland – The Act of Union 1707". Historic-uk.com. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  15. Ricklefs (1991), page 84
  16. "Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to History". Britannica.com. 1910-01-31. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  17. "List of Wars of the Crimean Tatars". Zum.de. Archived from the original on 12 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  18. "Len Milich: Anthropogenic Desertification vs 'Natural' Climate Trends". Ag.arizona.edu. 1997-08-10. Archived from the original on 2012-02-11. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  19. Wadsworth, Alfred P.; Mann, Julia De Lacy (1931). The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600–1780. Manchester University Press. p. 433. OCLC 2859370.
  20. "A guide to Scottish clans". Unique-cottages.co.uk. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  21. "Saudi Arabia – The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam". Countrystudies.us. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  22. "History". Columbia University.
  23. Ricklefs (1991), page 102
  24. "Sufism in the Caucasus". Islamicsupremecouncil.org. Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  25. "Yellow Fever Attacks Philadelphia, 1793". EyeWitness to History. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  26. Riedel S (2005). "Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination". Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 18 (1): 21–5. doi:10.1080/08998280.2005.11928028. PMC 1200696. PMID 16200144.
  27. Ricklefs (1991), page 106
  28. Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Inventions, Encyclopædia Britannica Archived August 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  29. Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. (1998) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 146 ISBN 978-0-471-29198-5

Further reading

  • Black, Jeremy and Roy Porter, eds. A Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century World History (1994) 890pp
  • Klekar, Cynthia. “Fictions of the Gift: Generosity and Obligation in Eighteenth-Century English Literature.” Innovative Course Design Winner. American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies: Wake Forest University, 2004. <Home | American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS)>. Refereed.
  • Langer, William. An Encyclopedia of World History (5th ed. 1973); highly detailed outline of events online free
  • Morris, Richard B. and Graham W. Irwin, eds. Harper Encyclopedia of the Modern World: A Concise Reference History from 1760 to the Present (1970) online
  • Milward, Alan S, and S. B. Saul, eds. The economic development of continental Europe: 1780–1870 (1973) online; note there are two different books with identical authors and slightly different titles. Their coverfage does not overlap.
    • Milward, Alan S, and S. B. Saul, eds. The development of the economies of continental Europe, 1850–1914 (1977) online
  • The Wallace Collection, London, houses one of the finest collections of 18th-century decorative arts from France, England and Italy, including paintings, furniture, porcelain and gold boxes.
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