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18th century

Millennium: 2nd millennium
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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 Great Britain.
The American Revolutionary War took place in the late 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, China, and Korea. Revolutions began to challenge the legitimacy of monarchical and aristocratic power structures, including the structures and beliefs that supported the slave trade. The British Industrial Revolution began, leading to radical changes in human society and the environment.

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. To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 or even later.

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 for counter-revolution.

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 monarchies of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the Austrian Empire which divided the Commonwealth territories 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 consequence, the empire was not exposed to Europe's military improvements of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). The Ottoman Empire military may have fallen behind and suffered 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.

European colonization of the Americas and other parts of the world intensified and associated mass migrations of people grew in size as the Age of Sail continued. European colonization intensified in present-day Indonesia, where the Dutch East India Company gained more power from the Mataram Sultanate. Mainland Southeast Asia would be embroiled in the Konbaung-Ayutthaya Wars and the Tay Son rebellion, while in East Asia, the century marked the High Qing era and the continual seclusion policies of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the French and Indian War in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India, especially Bengal; they later fought in the Anglo-Mysore Wars by the end of the century. However, Britain lost many of its North American colonies after the American Revolution and Indian Wars. In North America, the defeat of the British resulted in the formation of an independent United States. Great Britain laid claim to the continent of Australia under the justification of terra nullius and began its colonisation from 1788 onwards.

In the Indian subcontinent, the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb marked the end of medieval India. It marked the beginning of modern India and the era of extensive European intervention in the subcontinent, coinciding with Maratha expansion. The victory of the British East India Company over the Nawab of Bengal and their French allies in the Battle of Plassey caused the deindustrialization of Bengal. The British invasion expanded to cover much of South Asia. French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte formed one of the Franco-Indian alliances with the major power of the Kingdom of Mysore, governed by Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali.



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.

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This page was last updated at 2022-07-31 04:33 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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