Timeline of British Empire (1668-1945)

As part of the Visual Timeline series

Glorious Revolution

1701: War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714); death of Carlos II, childless Habsburg; France and Austrian Habsburg claim throne; English and Dutch support Austrians; French and Spanish power erode while Britain rises

1704: England-Holland-Austrian Habsburg defeat France-Bavaria at Battle of Blenheim (War of Spanish Succession)

1713: First Peace of Utrecht (end War of Spanish Succession); establishes Philip V as King of Spain; halts French ambitions and marks rise of Great Britain

1718: War of Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720); Britain-France-Austria-Dutch defeat Spain as they attempt to recover losses from 1713 Peace of Utrecht

1721: Russia becomes new Baltic Power after defeating Sweden in Great Northern War (1700-1721)

1733: War of Polish Succession (1733-1735); England-Spain-Dutch-HolyRomanEmpire coalition to halt French expansionism; Poland falls under dominion of Austria and Russia

– (May) Frederick II the Great ascends Prussian throne (r. 1740-1786)
– (Dec) War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748); Prussia (with France, Spain) invades Austria (with Britain, Dutch, Russia)

1756: Seven Years War (Britain-Prussia-Portugal Hanover vs France-Austria-Russia-Spain-Saxony-Sweden); first truly global war

1763: Anglo-Prussian victory over France-Habsburg-Saxony-Russia-Spanish in Seven Years War (1756-1763);  triggered by unresolved Austrian succession, but ultimately about Britain-France vying for global dominance. France now in financial ruin.

Map of Theaters and Bellingerents of the Seven Years War. Source

1769: Watts patents more efficient steam engine with separate condenser (Britain)

1775: Battles of Lexington and Concord begins American Independence War / Revolution.

1776: US Declaration of Independence

1777: American victory over British at Battle of Saratoga; France now joins war against Britain

1781: French navy under Rochambeau plays critical role in American victory at Battle of Yorktown, last major battle of American Independence War.

1783: Britain recognizes US at Treaty of Paris

1789: French Revolution starts as Bastille prison is stormed

1792: France defeats Prussia-Austria invasion; Napoleonic Wars begin (War of First Coalition 1792-1797); French victory at Battle of Valmy

1793: French King Louix XVI executed; horrifies European monarchs (Catherine of Russia turns back on liberal idealism of her youth); royalist counter-revolutionary rebellion begins in Vendee; Spain Holland Britain join First Coalition against France

1798: British defeat French navy at Battle of Nile

– Napoleon becomes First Consul (dictator) of France after coup; France becomes Consulate (1799-1804)

– (Jun) Napoleon crosses the Alps and defeats Austrians at Battle of Marengo; ends War of Second Coalition (Austria, Russia, Britain)
– Neutral European powers inc Russia forms Second League of Armed Neutrality, to embargo British back for interfering with trade (British embargo on France); Britain disbands League after Battle of Copenhagen 1801

– After losing Haiti amidst its revolution, Napoleon fears losing Louisiana to British, and so sells it the US for $15m.
– War of Third Coalition against France (1803-1806) begins

– Napoleon crowns himself emperor; France becomes Empire (1804-1814)

– (Oct) Britain, under Nelson, defeats Franco-Spanish invasion fleet at Battle of Trafalgar
– (Oct) France defeats Austria at Battle of Ulm
– (Dec) France defeats Russia-Austria at Battle of Austerlitz; Napoleon’s greatest victory

Admiral Lord Nelson dies in Battle of Trafalgar. Source

– France rules over most of Germany; Francis II abolishes Holy Roman Empire and becomes emperor of Austria; France recognizes Germany as the Confederation of the Rhine
– Prussia declares war on France beginning War of Fourth Coalition (1806-1807)
– France sets up Continental System to blockade Britain

– French victory at Battle of Eylau and Battle of Friedland
– (Jul) Napoleon France-Alexander I Russia alliance at Treaties of Tilsit
– Napoleon France blockades Britain (Milan Decree); further enforcing Berlin Decree 1806; continental Europe suffers as it can’t trade with Britain
– (Sep) Britain retaliates blockade by attacking Denmark at Second Battle of Copenhagen
– (Nov) Napoleon invades Portugal for trading with Britain, going against continental blockade

– Peninsular War; Spain-Portugal-UK repel Napoleonic French invasion of Iberian Peninsula (1808-1814); Dos de Mayo Uprising aka Battle of Madrid; guerrilla war keeps hundreds of thousands of French and resources bogged down for years
– (Aug) British defeat French at Battle of Vimeiro (Peninsular War)

– Ottomans allied with Napoleon France repel British attack and win Anglo-Turkish War 1807-1809.
– (Apr-Oct) War of the Fifth Coalition; France defeats Austria again
– (May) Battle of Aspern-Essling one of bloodiest Napoleon battles to date, and one his first major defeats
– (Jul) Napoleon victory at Battle of Wagram; but costly victory

– (Jun-Dec) Napoleon invades Russia; 650k men largest army ever assembled
– (Sep) Russians burn Moscow for scorched earth strategy; French victory at Battle of Borodino; but ends up retreating in winter; 1m casualties
– (Jul) British-Portuguese-Spanish victory over France at Battle of Salamanca (under Wellington command) (Peninsular War)

– War of the Sixth Coalition (1813-1814); coalition armies had been reforming and UK ramps up financial aid
– (Jun) Battle of Vitoria; decisive battle in Peninsula War; breaking Napoleon’s power in Spain
– (Oct) Prussia, Russia, Britain defeats France at Battle of Leipzig, largest battle in European history (0.5m soldiers involved); two major battles in May, climax third in Oct; Napoleon federation of Rhine dissolved

Battle of Leipzig: largest battle in European history before WW1. Source

1814: Allies capture Paris, Napoleon exiled to Elba island

– (Mar-Jul) Napoleon returns and engage in Hundred Days War (War of Seventh Coalition) against Allies
– (Jun) Britain-Prussia defeats Napoleon at Battle of Waterloo; under Duke of Wellington; Napoleon exiled to St Helena; monarchy re-established in France
– Congress of Vienna: Prussia regains territory lost to France and new territory in Germany; Poland mostly goes to Russia.

Napoleon finally defeated for good at Battle of Waterloo. Source

1827: Ottoman-Egyptian fleet re-captures parts of Greece; British, French, Russians send navy and sink Ottoman main fleet at Battle of Navarino, supporting Greek Independence War against Ottomans (1821-1832)

– French July Revolution; Louis Philippe ousts his cousin Charles X; France becomes Constitutional Monarchy (1830-1848)
– Belgian Revolution (1830-1839); revolting Dutch role; Belgium and Luxembourg created out of post-Napoleonic Netherlands

– First Reforms Act 1832 passed in UK (1832, 1867 1884); removing some inequalities in electorate representation

1837: Queen Victoria ascends (r.1837-1901)

1845: Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1851); aka potato famine; 1m deaths, 25% population decline from deaths and emigration

– Liberal and nationalist European Revolutions (1846-1848); 50 nations

1853: Crimean War (1853-1856); Britain and France helps Ottomans halt Russian advance; major European war of 19th century; Britain and France secures remains of declining Ottoman empire rather than giving it to Russians

Crimean War was the first photographed and telegraphed war, making news of reality of war more accessible to public . 5th Dragoon Regiment of the British army. Source

1858: First Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable

1862: US president Lincoln announces Emancipation Proclamation; deterring European intervention in American Civil War (1860-1865)

1869: Suez Canal opens

1871: Prussia wins Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871); Bismarck portrays France as aggressor, southern German states move towards unification; Prussia king Wilhelm I is proclaimed emperor

1878: Alarmed by rising Russian influence in Balkans (after supporting Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania gain independence from Ottomans), Britain and Austria-Hungary force Russians to sign treaty limiting their military power

1884: Europeans divide Africa at Congress of Berlin; scramble for Africa; Belgium Congo; Germany Tanzania; Britain Botswana; France Central Africa and northern Madagascar

Berlin Conference 1884 is epitome of global European colonialism. Source
Today’s Francophone Africa is legacy of Berlin Conference 1884; ‘Scramble for Africa’. Source

1904: Britain and France form Entente Cordiale alliance

1907: France-Britain-Russia form Triple Entente alliance

1913: Balkan League (Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria) liberates from Ottoman rule in First Balkan War (Oct1912 – Jul1913).



1936: King George V dies

People using mirrors to see King George V’s coffin in 1936. Looks oddly similar to nowadays as if they’re holding up phones. Source


(Jul 26th) Atlee succeeds Churchill as Britain PM.

See also:

Visual Timeline Series