Timeline of French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

As part of the Visual Timeline series

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.

French provide critical naval support for American revolutionaries against British. Source

1783: Britain recognizes US at Treaty of Paris

1788: Louis XVI summons the Estates-General, an advisory body

– (Jun) National Assembly Tennis Court Oath by Third Estate (inc Robespierre and Danton); form radical new political party Jacobin Club
– (Jul 14th) French Revolution starts as Bastille prison is stormed

Storming of Bastille prison. Source

– French National Assembly makes laws under Constitution of 1791; reducing King Louis XVI powers after he tries to flee France
– Guillotine introduced to move away from inhumane execution methods

– (Sep) National Convention declares French Republic
– (Sep) Radical Sansculottes now control govt of Paris; mass arrest and execute clergy and nobility (September Massacres)
– (Sep) France defeats Prussia-Austria invasion; Napoleonic Wars begin (War of First Coalition 1792-1797); French victory at Battle of Valmy

– (Jan) 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
– (May) Sanculotte radicals storm National Convention; Robspierre and radicals in full control (France)
– Committee of Public Safety est. (France)

Execution of King Louis XVI shocks European monarchs. Source

– (Jun) French victory over First Coalition at Battle of Fleurus (Belgium)
– (Jul) National Convention executes Robespierre; more moderate Thermodorians control Convention; The White Terror (bourgeois moderates purge sansculotte radicals)

– France conquers mainland Netherlands; setting up puppet Batavian Republic
– National Convention turns France into a Directory (1795-1799)
– Metric system adopted in France
– (Oct) Royalist rebellion in Paris suppressed by Napoleon; promoted to general

– (May) Napoleon defeats Austrians at Battle of Lodi (northern Italy); earns his nickname “The Little Corporal”

– Russia joins War of the Second Coalition (1798-1802) fighting revolutionary France
– (Aug) 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

Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Source

– 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)
– Haiti Revolution (1791-1804); French colony becomes first country to gain independence from European colonialism

Napoleon crowns himself emperor. Source

– (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
Size of Spanish flag flown at Battle of Trafalgar 1805. Source
Battle of Austerlitz. 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)

Napoleon invades Russia. Source

– 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

– (Feb) Six Days Campaign; Napoleon delays Allied invasion; but ultimately Paris falls and Napoleon abdicates; exiled to Elba island (Mediterranean)

– (Mar-Jul) Hundred Days War (War of Seventh Coalition); Allies war on returned Napoleon
– (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.
– Prussia Austria Russia forms Holy Alliance, agreeing to aid each other if internal rebellion
– Bourbon monarchy restored in France (1815-1830)

Napoleon finally defeated for good at Battle of Waterloo. Source

– Greek Independence War against Ottomans starts (1821-1832)
– Napoleon dies in exile at St Helena (Africa)

Napoleon dies in exile on remote island of St Helena (Africa). Source

1827: Ottoman-Egyptian fleet re-captures parts of Greece; British, French, Russians send navy and sink Ottoman main fleet at Battle of Navarino

– 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
– Greece official independence from Ottoman Empire
– Mazzini founds Young Italy movement calling for an independent unified Italian Republic

1837: Queen Victoria ascends British throne (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
– French monarchy falls; Second Republic established; Louis Napoleon elected; France becomes Republic (1848-1851)

1852: France becomes Empire (1852-1870); Louis Napoleon III becomes emperor

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

1859: France-Piedmont-Sardinia defeats Austria at Battle of Solferino-San Martino and Battle of Magenta over Italian nation creation

1861: Italy unified; Garibaldi leads military campaigns; Emmanuel II becomes king

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

1875: French Third Republic Constitution est.

1877: Republicans win general elections in France; ending hopes of monarchist revival

1878: Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania gain independence from Ottomans at Congress of Berlin with Russian intervention; Britain and Austria-Hungary alarmed by Russian gains forces treaty to limit Russian 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

1887: France colonizes Indochina (1887-1954); modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

French colonize Vietnam. Source

1889: Eiffel Tower opens; becomes tallest man-made struc for 41 years

Eiffel Tower opening. 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).

– (Jun 28th) Austrian archduke Ferdinand assassinated in Serbia
– (Jul 28th) Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia (start WW1)
– (Jul 31st) Russia mobilizes to aid Serbia
– (Aug 1st) Germany mobilizes to aid Austria-Hungary
– (Aug 4th) Germany invades Belgium, Britain declares war on Germany
– (Aug 12th) British expeditionary force lands in France
– (Aug 28th) British win first battle at sea, sinking 3 German cruisers at Battle of Heligoland Bight, and impose naval blockade on Germany
– (Sep 5th) First submarine warfare, Germans sink British cruiser
– (Sep 5-12) France repels German attack on Paris at First Battle of the Marne
– (Oct) Allies repel Germans at Battle of Ypres
– (Dec 16th) Germans raid British coast
– (Dec 20th) French launch first major offensive against Germany, small gains at big cost
– (Dec 25th) Xmas truce in Western front trenches

– (Aug 15-24th) Austria-Hungary unsuccessful in Serbia invasion, Battle of Cer
– (Aug 24-30) Germans repel Russian offensive into east Prussia at Battle of Tannenberg
– (Sep 7-14th) Germans push Russians further back, Battle of Masurian Lakes
– (Oct 29th) Ottoman joins Central Powers to fight against Russia
– (Nov) Germans attack Warsaw, Battle of Lodz
– (Dec 2nd) Austria-Hungary troops capture Belgrade, but Serbs counter and push back again



– (Nov) Lebanon gains independence from France

– (1-17th Jan) Germans withdraw from Ardennes; (16th Jan) US 1st and 3rd Armies link up after month-long separation during Battle of the Bulge; (13-14th Feb) Allied bombings destroy Dresden in firestorm (22k killed) (7th Mar) Allies capture Cologne and establish bridge across Rhine; (12th Apr) Allies liberate Buchenwald and Belsen concentration camps; (18th Apr) Germans in Ruhr surrender to Allies

(Jan 30th) German ship Wilhelm Gustloff sunk by Soviet submarine; killing 9k, making it greatest maritime disaster in history

(17th Jan) Soviets capture Warsaw, Poland; (Jan 27) Soviets liberate Auschwitz; (6th Mar) last German offensive of war to defend oil fields in Hungary; (30th Mar) Soviets capture Danzig; (16th Apr) Soviets begin attack on Berlin; (21st Apr) Soviets reach Berlin

– (Feb 4-11) FDR Churchill Stalin discuss post-war Europe at Yalta Conference; (Jul 17 – Aug 2) US Britain USSR settle post-war Europe borders at Potsdam Conference

(1st Apr) Allied offensive in northern Italy; (29th Apr) Mussolini killed by Italian partisans; Allies capture Venice.

(Apr 30th) Hitler commits suicide as Red Army enters Berlin; (2nd May) Germans in Italy surrender; (7th May) German unconditional surrender (under Alfred Jodl); (8th May) Victory in Europe Day; (5th Jun) Allies divide Germany and Berlin.

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


See also:

Visual Timeline Series