The 18th Century 1700 – 1799 dawns with a quiet rumble.

In the 18th century there is the promise of an explosive growth in global commerce.

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But it is time for catch up, transport systems are slow and the new science and technology awaits a manufacturing system to match. This is the century when the printed word reaches the man on the streets and reason and science becomes part of peoples everyday lives. An Agricultural Revolution begins to take place, improving nutrition to a growing population.

Scotland and England become the United Kingdom but there is fear of religious dissent fueling unrest. The invention of the first steam pumps adds fuel to the emerging Industrial Revolution, in the form of easier coal extraction. Inventions fill the patent offices, the flying shuttle, the spinning jenny and women start to take their place in science. The University of Bologna appoints Laura Bassi, 21, as professor of anatomy, Europe’s first professorship for a woman.

The East India Company flourishes and Calcutta has grown to be a major commercial port. Coffee plantations are added to the list using slave labour, hundreds of thousands of slaves are captured in Africa.  Hadley unravels the mysteries of the trade winds.

Through the first half of the 18th Century, the Jacobites continue to rage against the British. Further from home  in India, the mutterings of a revolt against the East India Company result in fighting and the company emerging more powerful than ever.

The Seven Years War leaves Britain in debt and in the new colonies of America, a rift between themselves and the British Government emerges.

Colonists remain disturbed by their lack of political power and taxation without representation. The 18th Century brings us the Boston Tea Party, the screw is tightened on the colonists with explosive results.

American Independence is declared.

During the American Revolutionary War, a French fleet drives a British naval force from Chesapeake Bay.

France signs an alliance with the American rebel force and recognizes the United States of America as a sovereign nation. France’s king, Louis XVI, declares war on Britain.

Captain James Cook aided by the advances made in maritime navigation, explores Tahiti and the Hawaiian Islands.

The first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon, is published.  Britain’s Adam Smith proposes a broader way of looking at wealth. His book, Wealth of Nations is published.

Convicts crowd out Britain’s prisons and the American colonies are no longer available for transportation.

The prisoners are sent to a place in Australia named after Lord Sydney.

Parisians storm the Bastille. The National Assembly declares an end to feudal rights and proclaims The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. France is in the midst of a Revolution and is eventually proclaimed a republic.

Napoleon goes to war against the rest of Europe.

Smallpox causes suffering around the globe. Inoculation is tested by Edward Jenner during a smallpox epidemic in London.

By the end of the 18th Century world population has nearly doubled to one billion people.

Don’t leave it there, explore the detail of the century in a more granular way on our 18th Century timeline and find links to resources that match the century.

The Vinegar Bible

The Vinegar Bible

The Vinegar Bible is widely accepted to be one of the best Bibles printed in the United Kingdom in the C18th but how did it get its name and what of John Baskett the man behind it?

Iron Bridge Coalbrook Dale

Iron Bridge Coalbrook Dale

The iron bridge near Coalbrook Dale is a humbling testament to the skill of ironworkers over two hundred years ago. The spectacular Severn gorge that carves its way through layers of limestone, coal and iron ore is a striking natural feature that gave rise to the most important industrialised landscape of the C18th. The River…

Matthew Boulton

Matthew Boulton

Matthew Boulton could be described as the father of the Industrial Revolution but his name is less well known than that of his partner James Watt. Matthew Boulton was born in Birmingham in 1728, the same year as Captain James Cook and into an age of enlightenment, reason and industrial revolution. His early years were…

Laura Bassi Scientist

Laura Bassi Scientist

Laura Bassi was born in Bologna in 1711, the same year as St Paul’s Cathedral in London was completed. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was a brilliant and erudite young woman, born into a heady atmosphere of early 18th century Bologna, a melting pot of ideas and fusion of like minded scholars, caught in the bosom…

Rachel Wriothesley wife of Lord Russell

Rachel Wriothesley wife of Lord Russell

Rachel Wriothesley played an interesting role in 17th Century intrigue but who was she? Rachel was born in 1636 in Titchfield Hampshire, the daughter of Thomas Wriothesley the 4th Earl of Southampton. The Wriothesley’s had an illustrious history, after the Reformation, the family grew more powerful and wealthier than ever before. Thomas Wriothesley, the 1st…

Gin Act 1751

Gin Act 1751

The Gin Act 1751 is a reminder that drunkenness on the streets is nothing new. London has always been a magnet for people wanting to improve their chances in life.  The early 18th century rural economy was already beginning to creak and groan under the yoke of enclosure and agricultural revolution. More people were seeking…

John Wilkinson Ironmaster

John Wilkinson Ironmaster

John Wilkinson was the ‘Ironmaster’ of the industrial revolution Iron  ran through the veins of John Wilkinson, who was fortunate enough to be born into the heart of the industrial revolution, both literally and figuratively. He was born in 1728, the son of Isaac Wilkinson. He worked in the iron industry at a blast furnace…

Caroline of Ansbach Wife of King George II

Caroline of Ansbach Wife of King George II

Caroline of Ansbach, Queen Consort to George II, described her son as a filthy beast, was friends with Leibnitz the philosopher and Walpole the politican. She was a shrewd and intelligent woman who played the game of royalty with considerable skill.

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act 1754

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act 1754

Hardwicke’s Marriage Act 1754 was necessary to stamp out the problem of clandestine marriages which had become rampant in 17th and early 18th century London.

James Watt Industrial Revolution

James Watt Industrial Revolution

James Watt the inventor of the steam engine and the industrial revolution was driven by steam but he was a man with a ferociously keen scientific mind that dabbled in many areas. This is an introduction to one of Britain’s finest engineers, we salute James Watt and his steam engines.