18th century

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The 18th century began on January 1, 1701 and ended on December 31, 1800 . The world population at the beginning of this century is estimated at 600 million people on average, while it is estimated to have increased to 970 million people at the end of the century. Thus, the global population growth of this century exceeded the cumulative growth of the previous five centuries. While the global networking of all continents continued to advance, the globe changed from a multipolar world with its early modern equilibrium to an increasingly European dominated world, with Great Britainbecame the most powerful European actor. It achieved this position through its pioneering role in world trade and industrialization . Because Europe is networked with the world, European conflicts often had repercussions in other parts of the globe. European trading companies played a major role in global trade, and they succeeded in establishing and defending regional or sectoral trade monopolies with armed force. In some regions, such as East and Southeast Asia, however, they played a minor role.

The European-American movement of the Enlightenment demanded a purely rational worldview and the organization of society. It influenced not only art, literature and education, but also politics. This is why some historians also speak of the “century of the Enlightenment”. In this century, the transformation from a class to a bourgeois society began in Western Europe. Many Enlightenmentists supported the ruling monarchs in modernizing their empire, but when the revolution came they tried to control it and played a decisive role in shaping the new order. The epoch of the bourgeois, modern constitutional state began with the French and American revolutions . After numerous European wars, an equilibrium of five major European powers began to form, which shaped European politics until the First World War . One of these great powers, Russia, not only became a major European power after fundamental reforms of the state and army, but also expanded as the largest country in Asia.

In Asia the Indian Mughal Empire changed from a central association to a loose confederation of states. In addition to sustainable structural reforms in the regional empires, the transformation process brought with it numerous wars and wars of succession. In this environment, the British East India Company managed to become the most powerful organization in South Asia alongside the Confederation of Marathas in the second half of the century . The Chinese Empire continued its expansion in Asia until it reached its greatest extent in 1759. This great empire experienced economic prosperity and rapid population growth. Japan continued to pursue its policy of isolation from the rest of the world, while the states of the Southeast Asian mainland consolidated and defended their independence against European and Chinese challengers. On the Southeast Asian island world, the Chinese greatly expanded their presence and influence.

By defeating the French , the British had temporarily become the most powerful colonial power on the North American continent. They lost this supremacy with the independence of the United States of America . The United States, like the European colonies of the Caribbean and Latin America, benefited economically from the labor of millions of African slaves. The hunt for slaves and shipping to America peaked in this century.


Europe in 1789

Eighteenth-century Europe is essentially assigned to the early modern era . The continent was divided into numerous Christian territorial empires. The empires of Western Europe were roughly the size of today. The center of Europe was split up into numerous medium-sized and small territories that were part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . Among them stood out Prussia and Austria , which developed into major European powers in this century, mainly through their territories outside the empire. The importance of Russia also increased with the acquisition of numerous territories. This happened partly at the expense of Sweden, which together with the Netherlands fell back into the second tier of European empires. The big loser was Poland , whose territory was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The Ottoman Empire was able to hold its territories in the southern Balkans despite some temporary losses.

Central and Southeast Europe

Of the numerous territories in central Europe that were part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Bavaria, Saxony and the Electorate of Hanover, ruled in personal union with Great Britain, were larger domains. As a result of numerous wars, including against Austria, Prussia rose to become the most important actor in the empire alongside her.

At the beginning of the century, Prussia's rulers from the Hohenzollern dynasty achieved a symbolic rise in rank with the dignity of king. They built up a strong army, but until 1740 there were hardly any armed conflicts. In 1740 Frederick the Great conquered Austrian Silesia as part of the War of the Austrian Succession and repulsed all attempts at reconquest. In the following Seven Years' War , in which Prussia faced powerful opponents with France, Spain, Austria and Russia, Friedrich was able to maintain the status. With the partitions of Poland , both Prussia and Austria gained further possessions outside of the Holy Roman Empire.

Prussia's war opponent Austria lost its most profitable province with Silesia. In order to secure the successor to Maria Theresa as ruler over all Austrian territories , Austria had spent a lot of money, which was missing for the army. Even before the defeat by Prussia, Austria had lost some of the territories in the Balkans that had been conquered by 1718 to the Ottoman Empire . As in Silesia, further attempts at reconquest failed in the Balkans. There Austria was confronted with Russia's increasing claims to power. As a consequence of the defeats, the crown implemented numerous reforms in the military, administration and the taxation system. The attempt to build up an absolutist rule, especially for Joseph II , only partially succeeded. Although the royal household expanded and a central bureaucracy was established, the Austrian nobility retained a large part of their power through a system of patronage in the allocation of court offices. The Hungarian nobility was also able to maintain its strong position. In the absence of a broad merchant class, a middle class developed in Austria with a high proportion of state officials. At the end of the century, it took on the leading role as a client and patron in culture.

The regulations agreed in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 provided a framework for the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , which in addition to Austria and Prussia consisted of a few medium-sized and numerous small imperial territories . This framework, which was supposed to create a denominational balance in the empire, was vital for the small territories. At the beginning of the century they still saw the Habsburg- Austrian emperors with their own power as guarantors of their interests. However, these increasingly pursued their own power goals. The small territories were juxtaposed with individual medium-sized territories, which built up a modern statehood on their territory with central administration, tax revenue stabilization and a standing army. The imperial institutions often stood in the way of their interest in playing along in European power politics. With the appointment of Wittelsbacher Karl VII. , Who , in contrast to his Habsburg predecessors, had no powerful household power, as emperor in 1742 , the imperial dignity was irrevocably damaged.

Furthermore, with the rise of Prussia to a great power, the Austro-Prussian antagonism began in the 1740s . From this time onwards, both great powers ruthlessly exploited the imperial institutions for their power politics. Their influence was not based on their formal position as defined by the imperial constitution, but on their economic and military strength. Although the institutions were seen as in need of reform, it was not possible to adapt them to the needs of the time. The polarization caused by the two German great powers ultimately made joint action by the members of the Reich hardly possible. In 1793 the empire as a whole decided to enter the First Coalition War against France, but ended it split. In 1795, some territories under the leadership of Prussia concluded the Treaty of Basel with France , which was followed by Austria's peace treaty in 1797 . Both peace treaties recognized the loss of the areas on the left bank of the Rhine to France.

Western Europe

Great Britain

The victory in the 1780 naval battle of Cape St. Vincent against the Spanish was one of the numerous victories of the Royal Navy in the 18th century.

The kingdoms of England and Scotland, previously ruled by the same monarchs, united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain in the Act of Union of 1707 . In 1717 a branch of the Protestant Guelphs, who were also Electors of Hanover , inherited the crown against the backdrop of the Act of Settlement . Nevertheless, they had to justify their legitimacy to the supporters of the Catholic successor James II for a long time. Only after the failed attempt at overthrowing the Jacobites in 1745/46 did the dynasty feel sufficiently secure to intervene more strongly in active politics. As constitutional monarchs , they relied on the approval of the British Parliament for many decisions . Only men of certain classes and owners of a minimum wealth could vote for this, so that large sections of the population were excluded from voting. Furthermore, the constituencies in no way represented the actual distribution of the population. Almost exclusively aristocrats were represented in the British Parliament, as they had the necessary influence and the necessary wealth for an election. While the middle classes exerted influence through lobbying, the other classes tried to make themselves heard through regular riots, "riots". Around 1700 two parties had emerged, Whigs and Tories , whose basic views differed fundamentally in some areas of politics.

In numerous European wars, which often also had a non-European arena, Great Britain rose to become the leading great power and sea power. Britain focused on its navy and invested relatively small amounts in its land forces unlike its European rivals. Although France, the Netherlands and Spain massively upgraded their fleets in the second half of the century, Great Britain retained its supremacy at sea.


The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 became a symbol of the French Revolution.

The French monarchs had the right to make all important political decisions absolutistically and centrally. In reality, however, the nobility had a means of influencing their interests. The nobles, many of whom had large estates, enjoyed economic and legal privileges. The financial burdens for the state were borne by the citizens and farmers. The Parisian Supreme Court (Paris Parlement ), dominated by the nobility, played a leading role in preserving privileges and increasingly used the right to block royal laws to defend its privileges against attempts at reform. After John Law's unsuccessful paper money experiment , the mercantilist policy of Minister de Fleury from 1726 to 1743 achieved currency stability and economic growth.

The system of government was built on a strong monarch, but after the death of Louis XIV , the monarchy became progressively weaker. After the death of de Fleury, his successor left the rule partially to his mistresses . After that, high government spending due to wars and court rulings, coupled with an inability to reform, led to the state's precarious economic conditions. Loss of colonial territories in America and India and an increasingly strong polemic against the monarchy in the public debate weakened their reputation. The king tried to achieve an economic upswing by releasing grain exports. As a side effect, crop failures and the associated inflation hit the urban population even harder. In addition, there were tensions in the country, where the landed gentry had expanded their property at the expense of the peasant commons .

In 1789 the problems escalated into the French Revolution . After more than a century, the king called the Assembly of the Estates General to reorganize the finances. Since the representatives of the third estate, made up of citizens and peasants, who represented the vast majority of the population, no longer accepted the old estate proposition, they founded the National Assembly for the sole purpose of representing the population. Shortly afterwards the urban and rural protests against the economic disadvantage escalated into violent actions against the old authorities. The National Assembly abolished many of the privileges of the old elites, introduced the separation of powers and drafted the declaration of human and civil rights . Because women were not mentioned in the declaration, Olympe de Gouges published a declaration on women's rights. The aristocracy and the church were disempowered and a civil constitutional state emerged . The newly constituted state financed itself in part through the secularization of church property.

After that, France declared war on Austria, which expanded into war with a European coalition of princes that had previously threatened to eliminate the revolution. The revolutionaries' fear of an occupation of France by foreign powers was one of the reasons that led to the radicalization of the revolution. The radicalization reached its climax with the terror regime of the “ welfare committee ”. During this time, the often hesitant king and queen were beheaded. The subsequently ruling Directory took back some freedoms and put Napoleon Bonaparte at the head of the state. He had previously made a name for himself at the head of a revolutionary army. By the end of the century, the revolutionary armies conquered territories bordering France, including the Italian peninsula, Holland and the German-speaking areas west of the Rhine.


The result of the Spanish War of Succession brought Spain, with the change of dynasty to the Spanish Bourbons, an orientation away from the Austrian to the French camp. In order to maintain the European balance, the Spanish dynasty no longer ruled over territories outside the Iberian Peninsula . The Spanish Netherlands fell to Austria, while southern Italy fell to Austria only for a short time and was ruled by the sidelines of the Spanish royal family from 1735.

The reforms of the new dynasty made Iberian Spain more centralized. Economic reforms abolished the internal tariffs, so that a unified economic area was created. Together with the promotion of trade and industry, the reforms led to an economic upturn. The state also benefited from this due to tax reforms. In the 1780s, Spain saw the end of reforms and an economic downturn. Enduring wars followed, for which Spain, despite colonies and economic reforms, was able to mobilize far fewer resources than its war opponent Great Britain. The French Revolution, which divided Spain's elite into supporters and opponents, weakened the country domestically.

Eastern Europe

In Poland the nobility who chose the monarch had a very strong position. He appointed mainly foreign monarchs due to high bribes. At the beginning of the century Poland suffered great destruction in the Great Northern War , among other things due to the failure of Saxony Augustus the Strong , and no longer had any influence on foreign policy. Poland was able to recover economically afterwards. However, administrative, structural and army reforms failed to materialize due to disputes between the aristocratic groups and between the court and the nobility. Poland did not have a strong army that was on the technical and tactical level of its neighbors. Among the aristocrats, supporters of Prussia and Russia were irreconcilable. A treaty with Russia eventually led to a civil war in which Poland's neighbors became involved. In 1772 they divided part of Poland among themselves. In the spirit of the Enlightenment , a liberal constitution was passed in Poland . The absolutist monarchies of Austria, Russia and Prussia took this as an opportunity to divide Poland completely among themselves in two further stages in 1793 and 1795 .

With its victory against Sweden in the Great Northern War, Russia not only gained access to the Baltic Sea, but also finally rose to join the group of major European powers. The improvement of the Russian army and the establishment of a navy contributed to the victory. These changes were part of numerous military, economic, and social reforms carried out by Peter the Great . He copied Western European technology and social standards. The reforms essentially affected the Russian elite, which was increasingly oriented towards the West. The life of the lower classes, however, was hardly changed. The construction of the new capital city of Saint Petersburg , with its architecture oriented towards Western Europe, was a symbol of Russia's turn to the west. But it also cost many lives.

In this century, when the Russian population grew rapidly, Russia expanded to the Crimean peninsula, among other places . Although the tsars ruled their multi-ethnic empire autocratically , they were only able to unify the empire to a limited extent. The nobility were able to assert their interests, for example the conversion of feudal estates into private property. Nevertheless, the tsars managed to tie him to their court. Under Catherine the Great , peasants' serfdom was enshrined in law and they became the personal property of their masters. With the export of bulk goods such as iron and furs to the rest of Europe, Russia achieved a trade surplus . Part of the money was spent on recruiting foreign experts. Numerous German settlers were also recruited with the promise that they would be allowed to cultivate fertile land on their own.

Rule, law and society

With a few exceptions, the European societies were estates . Their class, which, except for the Catholic clergy, was determined by birth, only a few people were able to escape through advancement. The status determined both personal rights and, in part, access to resources. The class system mostly divided people into aristocrats, citizens and farmers. In addition, there was the clergy in Catholic countries. Not only within the leading aristocratic class, to which only a very small part of the population belonged, but also within the other classes there was great differentiation.

Montesquieu expanded the separation of powers to include the judiciary .

At the top of the pyramid of estates there was often a monarch or, more rarely, a monarch. The abundance of monarchical power was limited by traditional class privileges, although the power of the classes and their institutions varied greatly from region to region and changed over the course of the century. In England, royal rule was severely curtailed by a parliament determined by the nobility and gentry . Many other monarchs claimed to rule in an absolutist way, but also had to take the nobility and estates into consideration. They justified the absolutist claim to rule no longer religiously, but in terms of natural law as being useful for the community.

In particular, the Prussian King Frederick the Great , Emperor Joseph II and Tsarina Katharina the Great took the principles of the Enlightenment into account in many of their state reforms. They were advised by some Enlightenment experts on their government concept, later called Enlightened Absolutism . They carried out numerous reforms to strengthen the central royal power and to unify the country. This included the establishment of a Prussian and Austrian professional civil service . In Prussia, which consolidated the corporate social system with clear role assignments for the classes, the liberation of the peasants from serfdom only progressed gradually over the course of the century. Austria, on the other hand, quickly abolished this with two decrees in the last half of the century. In spite of all enlightened reforms, however, Russia expanded serfdom. The European reforms also affected criminal law . Prussia and Austria abolished torture in criminal law. In addition, prison sentences were increasingly imposed instead of one-off penalties such as monetary payments. Due to a lack of prison places, Great Britain shipped the prisoners to North America. After American independence, they switched to Australia.

In their writings, some enlighteners directed themselves against the absolutist monarchy and developed principles that are the basis of many modern states. These include the separation of powers postulated by Locke in the previous century, which Montesquieu expanded in this century to include three independent powers: executive , legislative and judicial . Both the French and American revolutionaries drew on some ideas from the Enlightenment.

economy and society

In Coalbrookdale , England , iron production began with coke in the 18th century.

In this century the Agrarian Revolution and the beginning Industrial Revolution introduced a fundamental structural change and led to a sharp increase in productivity . Fundamental social changes went hand in hand with the economic structural change.

In many European countries, new crops such as beets, rape, clover and potatoes were grown in the course of the century . These had the advantage that they also thrived on nutrient-poor soils and were a much larger supplier of calories compared to grain. The rotation of crops and the systematization of cattle breeding also contributed to increasing agricultural yields . Many larger landowners, stimulated by agricultural literature, developed an increasing interest in the profitability of their goods, which also increased agricultural productivity. Through the use of sowing and threshing machines , which progressed at very different speeds in Europe, large goods were able to achieve a further increase in the second half of the century. In addition, landed gentry and medium-sized farms benefited from the fact that in Western Europe more and more individual private property was replacing medieval collective property and usage rights. There was a concentration of land ownership in many parts of Europe.

The agricultural revolution reduced employment opportunities for small tenants and dependent workers in agriculture. These found work in rural handicrafts and service industries or migrated to the cities. In England, the urban population rose from 7 to 29 percent this century.

The agricultural revolution was accompanied by a sharp increase in population. On the one hand, the former servants and maidservants in the agricultural handicraft businesses were more independent and were able to start a family earlier or at all. On the other hand, fewer people died of famine, as regional crop failures could be more easily compensated for by purchases from other regions. The goods sold on the market were available in much larger quantities, as significantly more and more regular quantities of field crops were produced that exceeded their own needs. The decline in child mortality in England and France, with 30 to 50 percent of children dying before the age of five, also contributed to population growth. The plague epidemics that had plagued Europe at regular intervals over the past centuries subsided over the course of this century.

Most European countries tried to promote their economies following the principles of mercantilism by expanding the infrastructure, supporting domestic trade and industry and sealing them off from foreign competition through tariffs . The increased construction of roads and canals supports the trade. In addition, technical and scientific advances in nautical science have made shipping more efficient. The increasing monetization of the world economy was another pillar of international trade. The Europeans took the lead in this, even if they did not dominate in all regions. The financial strength, professional structures and aggressiveness of the European trade organizations , of which the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was still the largest in the middle of the century, were unique in the world. Of the imports from overseas, 32 percent came from the Atlantic trade, 12 percent from those with Asia and 1 to 5 percent from those with the Middle East. Textiles, sugar, tea and coffee replaced the spices as the most important import goods from overseas. While international trade was important to the European empires, European imports were most important to them, with Russia being Western Europe's leading trading partner.

By protecting the domestic textile industry from global competition and increasing industrial production, the British achieved such a high level of economic efficiency that they decided to switch to free trade at the end of the century . On the island, earlier than in the rest of Europe, groups had formed which increasingly fought for entrepreneurial freedoms from the state. Adam Smith gave these aspirations for freedom a theoretical basis. In addition to the British, the Dutch merchant fleet, which traditionally relied on free trade, was strongly represented on the world's oceans, even if it lost market shares in numerous markets. The rise of Amsterdam to become the leading financial center for loans and bonds compensated for economic losses in other sectors .

The Industrial Revolution, with its great economic and social upheaval, began in Great Britain. In addition to the release of a large workforce through the agricultural revolution, important technical innovations and the promotion of coal as an energy source were important prerequisites. Due to the scarcity of firewood, coal was increasingly used as fuel for heating in England in the previous century. In this century coal could be extracted more easily with the help of the steam engine . Several innovations made it possible to use it in the form of coke for the production of iron on a large scale. Several inventions in the textile industry, which is so important for Great Britain, such as the spinning jenny , made it possible to manufacture larger quantities of yarn and textiles with a given labor force. Great Britain was able to raise the large amounts of capital required for industrialization through its trade and the well-functioning London banking system. At the end of the century there were the first signs of industrialization in northern France, Flanders and individual German regions.

Science, technology and education

In the previous centuries, scientific discussions were limited to small elite groups, but now larger sections of the population are concerned with these topics. The Enlightenment led to a sharp increase in printed works and thus to an intensification of the exchange of knowledge. In encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers and the Encyclopædia Britannica , some enlightened people tried to summarize the knowledge of the time. The science of the 18th century wanted to study nature in order to be able to solve practical problems of the time. Against this background, it experienced a sharp increase in public funding. In many European capitals, new scientific academies have been established and existing ones expanded. To solve the practical problems of the time, the scholars were able to fall back on the foundations laid in the 17th century. In the last decades of the 17th century, science had largely broken away from theological guidelines.

In addition to the further development of existing knowledge, more and more topics were researched using scientific methods, thus creating the basics of biology, chemistry and thermodynamics. The spirit of research and the urge to discover, but also the hoped-for practical benefit, drove numerous research trips . Two international research collaborations, in which several expeditions measured the passage of Venus and thus the distance to the sun, attracted a lot of attention . With the ship's clock developed by John Harrison , the longitude could be determined at sea , which made navigation much easier. With the invention of the steam engine and its further development by James Watt , a key technology of the industrial revolution was provided.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann , who dealt with Roman and especially Greek antiquity, founded scientific archeology and art history. The scientists who accompanied Napoleon on his campaign to Egypt promoted European interest in ancient Egypt. Collections of antiquities and art from distant countries contributed to the prestige of ruling houses.

But the education of the broad mass of the population also increased. Educational reforms, for example in Prussia and Austria, urged the communities to give their boys a school education. In the process, the state increasingly took on responsibility for school education and pushed back the independent church educational institutions. The educational effort in Europe has resulted in a sharp increase in literacy. By 1750, 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women in Britain had these skills.

Not only in the area of ​​education, but also in the area of ​​health care, the European states took the first steps to provide comprehensive, systematic services of general interest . In connection with the idea of ​​a medical policey , the doctor was no longer seen only as an individual service provider, but was also supposed to promote the health of the general population on behalf of the state. Efforts to curb the widespread smallpox epidemics through vaccinations also served to promote the health of the population . However, an effective vaccine against smallpox was only developed in the last few years of the century. The profession of doctor broadened its field of activity and increasingly took on tasks in obstetrics . The surgery was indeed previously separated as in the centuries of medical Medicine, but gained an appreciation as equal discipline. In the 18th century, modern-type hospitals replaced the medieval hospitals in numerous cities . The large hospital wards were divided into several small halls and pharmacies were added to the houses. Surgery and internal medicine had equal departments next to each other.

Worldview and religion

The Enlightenment movement , building on its beginnings in the previous century, became a central idea of ​​the 18th century. The Enlightenment wanted to use the means of rational reason to overcome all traditions and authorities that were not justified by them. Rationality, belief in progress, human rights and freedom of religion were central themes of the Enlightenment. It was no longer just scholars, but in principle all the educated classes took part. In contrast to earlier movements, which relied on rationality, the Enlightenment had the right to make their views known to a broad public. Places such as salons were created in which the various ideas were discussed across the stands. In addition, the ideas were discussed in closed societies of the rising bourgeoisie, such as the Masonic lodges . Within this rough framework there were a wide variety of views as to what was rationally justified and what consequences were to be drawn from it. If the rulers were open to the Enlightenment , the Enlightenmentists support the rulers in expanding their centralistic power to the disadvantage of the estates and in making the administration more effective. Although the equality of all people was considered a general Enlightenment ideal, numerous Enlightenmentists at least justified severe economic and legal inequality.

In many Catholic countries, the monarchies increased their control over the churches in the name of the Enlightenment by placing the church under state control. Pastors took over state functions. They also nationalized parts of the church property. In Austria, for example, contemplative monastic orders that did not perform nursing or other social tasks were expropriated. In many of these countries the Jesuit order , once the champion of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, was banned. Its schools were placed under state control. Eventually the Pope gave in to pressure from the monarchs and dissolved the Jesuit order. In Russia, Tsar Peter the Great dissolved the Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate , which had previously had supreme administrative and judicial sovereignty over the Church, and replaced it with the Most Holy Ruling Synod , whose members he appointed. The property of the Russian monasteries was secularized .

Many enlightened monarchs relied on religious tolerance and lifted numerous restrictions on religious minorities. Not only Christian denominational minorities enjoyed new freedoms , but also Jews. In contrast, deviations from the prevailing Catholic doctrine were persecuted in France, for which the monarchy and the church were severely criticized by Enlightenment groups such as Voltaire . At the end of the century, during the French Revolution, secularization was accompanied by strong violence against church representatives. The idea of ​​the nation became a worldview. Together with a high level of religious tolerance, the great freedom of the press in Great Britain at the time left scope for largely non-violent religious and ideological discussions.

The natural sciences, largely freed from religious influences, left room for questions of meaning. The now rising philosophy tried to solve this with the most scientifically rational methods possible.

Arts and Culture

The Wieskirche was built in the Rococo style.

At the beginning of the century, numerous artists took up the baroque style of the previous century. Numerous baroque churches and castles were built in the German cultural area, in Russia and Spain in particular. The works of art were supposed to represent the client's prestige and legitimize his power with display of magnificence and lavish display. In some areas the baroque rose to rococo . On the one hand, the opulence of the decorative elements increased, on the other hand, the Rococo broke away from the strict symmetry of the Baroque. In the second half of the century, classicism emerged as a counter-movement to the baroque. Classicist works of art used decorative elements very sparingly. The new style was particularly striking in the architecture. She made direct reference to classical antiquity , equipping buildings with antique columns and portico . With its rational structure, classicism was inspired by the Enlightenment. The scientific archeology that emerged in this century also provided impetus. Baroque gardens with their large geometric flower gardens have been replaced by English landscape gardens . The landscape gardeners created a landscape that should represent an ideal image of nature. This picture was accentuated and staged by small buildings.

The predominantly Baroque literature was replaced at the beginning of the century by works of the Enlightenment, among other things. These countered the view of the Baroque, which tended to preserve the status quo, with an optimistic belief in progress. The authors called for a critical view of the world with the help of reason and for questioning the traditional. In contrast to the Baroque, poetry used a natural and simple language. The bourgeois literature gained in importance and became more sophisticated. The novel in particular became more and more popular with new themes and forms, such as the first letter novel . In addition to the political discussion, the representation of grievances in the form of satire and the discussion of political and social models, some writers wanted to move the reader to change their behavior.

At the beginning of the century, Enlightenment literature used rational arguments alone to convince. Traditional stylistic devices were used by her when they withstood a rational examination. From the middle of the century, more and more writers wanted to move their audience through emotionality by appealing to their empathy . In the German cultural area, the authors of Sturm und Drang opposed the rationality of the Enlightenment. They highlighted the genius' emotionality. The same authors then turned to classical antiquity as a model in the Weimar Classic . In other countries, such as France, the early Romantics put feeling against the rationality of the Enlightenment.

Similar developments took place in the theater. The bourgeois theater, which increased its level considerably, began its triumphant advance. Plays should convince the audience with an unadulterated image of nature. The representation of affects , a central stylistic device of baroque theater, was abandoned. The character of the person portrayed on stage should be shown in its emotional complexity. As in literature, the relationship between the characters' experience and behavior was of interest for the first time in the theater.

European music developed continuously in the 18th century from late baroque to Viennese classic . Above all, Italian, French and German-speaking composers played a leading role. At the beginning of the century, musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel developed the baroque style to perfection. A strict polyphonic form and the dominating figured bass were characteristic of her pieces. They were predominantly in the form of the fugue , sonata , cantata or suite . The importance of church music, including oratorios , which played a major role at the beginning of the century, declined over the course of the century. Over the course of the century, composers placed increasing emphasis on melody and harmony , with their pieces becoming increasingly homophonic . Joseph Hayden developed the string quartet and the symphony among others . The increasing role of the piano forte was shown, among other things, in the piano concertos developed by Mozart . The music audience became increasingly middle-class and more and more composers preferred self-employment to permanent employment. Handel in particular became a successful music entrepreneur. Opera continued to develop by gaining in popularity alongside operas with serious dramatic content and cheerful operas. In the German cultural area, Singspiele came up in which no recitatives were sung between song numbers , but the text was spoken. The most famous Singspiel is Mozart's Magic Flute .


With the exception of Morocco, all North African territories were under Ottoman rule. North Africa's rulers recognized the formal sovereignty of the sultans , but they were politically autonomous and only accepted the international treaties concluded by the Ottomans if they were favorable to them. The slave trade played an important role in the economy of the Maghreb empires. On the one hand, Muslim pirates , known as barbaric corsairs , enslaved European coastal residents and ship crews on their raids. On the other hand, the slave trade through the Sahara continued as in past centuries. Morocco was rocked by heavy dynastic battles from 1727 to 1745, but the ruling Alavid dynasty was finally able to hold out. The dynasty, which relied on released military slaves rather than tribes, had to make concessions to local groups and integrate them into its system of rule.

Egypt was formally ruled by the Ottoman sultans, but the Janissaries and Mamluk families rivaled for actual power. In the second half of the century, the Mamluk Qazdaghi clan prevailed. In the late 1960s, one of its members, Ali Bey Bulut Kapan, was able to usurp power and eliminate all other rivals for power, including the sultan. After Ali Bey's death, the Qazdaghi clan gradually fell apart. The dominant actors embezzled state assets and extorted taxpayers. An attempt at stabilization by Ottoman troops begun in the mid-1980s failed after a few years.

Egypt was doing well economically until the 1960s. Agriculture developed favorably and the coffee trade made great profits. Numerous coffee houses emerged and with them a secular public. The subsequent economic decline was exacerbated by the political disputes in 1783 when a plague epidemic broke out . This hit not only Egypt, but also all of North Africa and Syria and, with the exception of Algeria, also initiated economic decline there. In 1798 the French conquered Egypt under Napoleon and stayed there until 1801. The French invasion began a period of military intervention by Christian European states in the Middle East, which continues to this day.

Sub-Saharan Africa was split up into a number of larger centralized empires and many small and small rulers. The settlement activity of the Europeans was limited to the beginnings of inland settlement in southern Africa on numerous coastal forts , most of which were on the south coast of West Africa. The Europeans had little knowledge of the rest of the African interior. Their influence on these areas was only indirect.

In West Africa, European traders traded with small to medium-sized empires, who were often centralized towards one ruler. Several empires reached their greatest expansion through numerous conquests during the century. The Ashanti Empire and the Oyo Kingdom , which brought the Dahomey Kingdom under its control, profited greatly from trade with Europeans. The slave trade took up the largest part. The high demand from Europeans led the local rulers to wage more and more wars in order to sell the prisoners of war made there as slaves. Furthermore, the number of convictions of slavery increased sharply in the coastal states.

The weapons Europeans exchanged for slaves boosted the power of the local African elite. In addition to weapons, the rulers and traders needed European consumer goods, such as fabrics, to keep their growing client network dependent. On a small scale, slaves also served the local economy as cheap labor. But their sale was often more attractive to local rulers and traders in view of the high prices on the slave market. Muslim preachers who opposed the enslavement of Muslims were successful at certain points. More important, however, were the European anti-slavery movements , which only achieved sustained success in the following century. Alongside the West African Ouidah , the West Central African Luanda was the most important port in Africa in the transatlantic slave trade . The real political power in the Portuguese colony was held by Brazilians and Afro-Portuguese. The centrally organized kingdom of Lunda to the north , which was the largest Central African empire, also participated in the slave trade.

The Swahili emporia on the East African coast were able to push back Portuguese domination around the middle of the century. In return, Oman was able to expand its influence on the coast through support services. The Omanis, who ruled a territory on the East African coast with Zanzibar , operated the centuries-old slave trade with the Muslim countries on the north coast of the Indian Ocean . In addition, the increasing demand for slaves was met by the French islands in the Indian Ocean, on which numerous new plantations were created. At the end of the century, the slave trade became one of the most important branches of trade in the emporia. The size of the slave trade was significantly smaller than that of the west coast.

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) colony expanded in southern Africa . Dutch and German settlers and their descendants could no longer find a place in the original colony to run their own farms and they moved further and further inland. The farmers, keen on their own independence, used imported slaves and khoisan , the original indigenous population, as labor. The latter, which had been severely decimated by imported diseases, had to give up their resistance to the conquest because of the superior weaponry of the trek boers. In today's South African province of Eastern Cape , the advance of the farmers led to several border wars with the Xhosa people , who were arable farmers and ranchers there. When France conquered the Netherlands in 1795, the British took the opportunity to conquer the Cape Colony from the VOC.


Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire around 1795.

At the beginning of the century, the Ottoman Empire waged several wars with European powers in the Balkans . With the exception of the areas north of the Danube and Sava , it was able to regain the areas lost in these wars until the 1730s and, after clashes with Persia, set its eastern border in 1748. In the decades to come, the Ottoman borders were relatively stable. During this time the sultans tried to enforce their interests through intensified diplomatic activities in Europe. Local elites created semi-autonomous domains within the borders of the empire, but formally recognized the sultan as the overlord. The nature, position and mode of action of these elites as well as the duration of their autonomy in the various parts of the empire varied greatly. On the North African coast, the Deys and Beys continued their relatively autonomous rule from the previous century. In Egypt and Iraq, changing Mamluk families , next to which at times were Ottoman governors , ruled relatively autonomously. Even if these rulers sent tributes to Istanbul, Ottoman influence there was very limited. Like other regional rulers, they concluded independent economic agreements with European empires.

In the last third of the century, the Ottoman Empire lost its territories north of the Black Sea to Russia, with the sultans having to give up Muslim territory for the first time with the Crimea . From that point on, the Black Sea was no longer “Ottoman inland waters”, but was open to international shipping. On the other hand, at no time did Russia have the means to implement its Greek project aimed at breaking up the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Selim III. took the defeats and the increasing pluralization of the empire as an opportunity for greater reform efforts in the army and state. He tamed the power of religious scholars by integrating them into the political process, opening the way to civil administration for additional groups of men, and reducing the number of Janissaries . To compete with them, he set up a new unit, Nizâm-ı Cedîd , based on the European model. To finance them, he increased taxes and collected vacant tax leases.

From 1720 to 1765 the increasing regionalization did not stand in the way of an economic upswing in many parts of the empire. The autonomous regions formed self-contained economic areas with independent trade relations with Europe. Ottoman trade with Europe flourished until the 1760s, particularly with France, whose merchants were granted far-reaching privileges by the Ottomans. Measured against the strongly increasing world trade volume in Western Europe, however, the relative trade share of the Ottomans fell very sharply. In the provinces of eastern North Africa and Syria, a plague epidemic that broke out in 1783 contributed to the economic decline.

Until the 1730s, the court took on the architecture, art, court life and the splendor of European courts, especially the French court, without copying them. Elegant houses and mosques were adorned with depictions of landscapes instead of ornaments . This phase was followed by a period of simplicity and a return to the Turkish heritage. In the course of the century, a bourgeois class clearly separated itself from the court. They are just as resolutely distanced from the Islamic puritans, who were popular among the poorer classes of the population. In the 1720s there were printing companies that printed administrative documents as well as literature, but between 1748 and 1784 the printing of documents was again banned as in previous centuries. In addition, several public libraries opened in Istanbul. A critical political public emerged slowly and cautiously.

West and Central Asia

The Saud family began to rise in the middle of the century, reaching an emirate that spanned large parts of the Arabian Peninsula . In contrast to previous emirs , they did not establish a tribal confederation, but a territorial dynastic rule. Her alliance with Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb , the founder of one of the most radical Islamic renewal movements, many of which had sprung up in the Islamic world, was a central pillar of her rise. While the Saud family took over political leadership, al-Wahab and his successors took over religious leadership. They preached a Puritan Islam.

Persia under the Zand dynasty

At the beginning of the century, the Safavid dynasty was under severe pressure from Russian and Ottoman attacks against their Persian empire. This took the Ghilzai - Pashtuns , who were under Persian suzerainty, from conquered Persia and took over the throne of the Shah of the Safavid ruling. Nader , an Afjar commander of a Safavid crown pretender, drove the Ghilzai out of Persia and was elected Shah in 1736 . He distanced himself from the Shia that had shaped Persia during the Safavid period. He then banned some Shiite practices and claimed that the Shia was a school on a par with the Sunni law schools . He also undertook campaigns of conquest to Afghanistan , Uzbekistan , Oman and Bahrain . In 1739 he sacked Delhi , both stealing the city's riches and murdering a large part of its residents. The high taxes with which he financed his army made the Shah hateful among the Persian people. In 1747 he was murdered by his officers.

Karim Khan took his death as an opportunity to conquer large parts of Persia from his home region in southern Persia and to found the Zand dynasty . While Khorasan in the northeast sank into power struggles of the Afsharians, the rest of Persia experienced an economic boom under his rule and the return of the promotion of the Shia. Under Karim Khan's weak successors, the rival Turkmen tribe of the Qajars of northern Persia conquered the empire and established the Qajar dynasty , which made Tehran its capital.

The death of Nadar Shah in 1747 also left a power vacuum in what is now Afghanistan, which the Pashtun tribe of Abdali was able to use for themselves after power struggles. Its leader Ahmad Shah Durrani established the Durrani Empire , which quickly encompassed western Afghanistan and large parts of what is now Pakistan. At the end of the century it splintered into numerous fighting little gentlemen. In what is now Uzbekistan, north of it, the khanates of Kokand , Khiva and Bukhara shared power. To the north of these Transoxan khanates were the Kazakh khanates and sultanates, which increasingly came under Russian control over the course of the century. With that began the Russian expansion into Central Asia, which secured Russia with fortresses and trading posts.

Indian subcontinent

Political developments

The Indian subcontinent in 1765

The Mughal dynasty , whose empire encompassed the greater part of the Indian subcontinent at the beginning of the century, increasingly lost power after the death of Mughal Aurangzeb in 1707. In addition to succession disputes and party battles at court, the sacking of Delhi by the Afghan-Persian Nader Shah in 1739 contributed to the loss of reputation and decline of the Mughals. Several provincial rulers took advantage of the loss of power to rise as semi-autonomous rulers in the 1720s, formally recognizing the Mughals as overlords. Your domains Avadh , Bengal , Hyderabad and the empire of the Marathen were important players in the Indian power struggle.

By the middle of the century, the Marathas' empire under the Peshwa Baji Rao I expanded from the western Deccan to the Ganges plain and became the largest territorial power in South Asia. Baji Rao's successor Balaji Baji Rao dedicated himself to the administration of the great empire and managed to concentrate the actual power on himself. In 1761 the Marathas were at the height of their power when they tried to stop the raids of the Afghan Durrani Empire in northern India. In the Third Battle of Panipat , however, they suffered a crushing defeat against the Afghans.

Subsequently, Marathen and Durrani largely withdrew from the power struggle over northern India. In the years that followed, the Marathas focused on defending against the expansion of the Mysore Empire on their southern border, which they halted in 1767. South of the Marathan Empire, the military sultans of Mysore conquered large parts of southern India in the 1770s and 1780s. In the 1790s, the British East India Company militarily pushed the empire back to the position of a small vassal state and thus ruled the entire south of the subcontinent directly and indirectly.

Robert Clive's victory in the Battle of Plassey marked the beginning of British rule over Bengal .

In the first half of the century, the British, like other European empires, maintained several trading bases with their East India Company on the coasts of South Asia, to which the immediate land in the vicinity was assigned. In the 1740s and 50s, the French and British fought a power struggle over their influence on the Indian subcontinent. While it was initially about the European trading posts on the south-east coast of the subcontinent, the two European powers interfered on different sides in the power struggle of Indian powers for supremacy in the south-east region of Karnatics . At the end of the Carnatic Wars , the French lost many South Asian territories and their influence in South Asia to the British East India Company in 1763 .

In the 1750s, it gained control of Bengal in northeastern South Asia. The starting point was a victory over the Nawab of Bengal, who tried in vain to collect taxes from the British trading post in Calcutta . After that, the British obtained the Diwani, sovereignty over civil administration and the right to collect taxes in Bengal, from the Mughal Mughal, which they used to greatly increase the tax burden of the population for their benefit. With the Cornwallis Code they introduced European legal concepts in India for the first time. With their military victory over the Nawab of neighboring Avadh and the Mughal Mughal at the Battle of Baksar in 1764, the British secured full control of Bengal. They gained a powerful ally in the Nawab of Avadh, making them a significant power in northern India. At the end of the century they could make him as well as the Nizam of Hyderabad dependent on themselves, so that these rulers had to maintain British troops on their territories at their expense. The latter had previously awarded the British the Northern Circars.

Economy, rule and society

In the first half of the century, the Indian economy went through a phase of consolidation and integration, with economic output being additionally stimulated by foreign demand. In economically strong regions, the commercialization of agriculture increased and the textile sector of South India was characterized by an increasing division of labor. With the exception of the British-controlled regions, Indian producers and merchants determined the conditions and prices on the market. The Europeans were a group of exporters alongside Arabs, Persians and Indians. The decline of important Indian port cities could be compensated by other Indian ports. At the end of the century, of all European trading establishments, only the port of British Calcutta had achieved a dominant regional position.

Numerous Indian rulers strengthened the administrative structures in their territories by taking over the system of the Mughal Empire and effectively completing it at the local level. These administrative structures were an important basis for later British rule. After the British East India Company gained political power in Bengal in the middle of the century, it reorganized the economy according to its needs. The restructuring hit the textile industry in particular, with traders being displaced and producers becoming dependent on the British. Tax collection was further centralized and taxes increased. British tough administrative measures compounded the aftermath of the great famine of the 1770s . The South Indian wars, in which the British increasingly took part, led to a long-term economic collapse from the middle of the century. Great waves of displacement and displacement and the impoverishment of large sections of the population were signs of the crisis.

For the military operations, the Europeans used Indian mercenaries, whom they recruited on a large military labor market. Led by European officers, they learned the European fighting techniques. The French and British acted within the framework of the traditional structures of rule in India. After the wars, however, the fired troops could not be fully integrated into Indian agriculture, as a result of which the proportion of the poor population increased.

Groups of wealthy merchants emerged in the northern cities of the subcontinent. A small, heterogeneous critical public grew up there in the vicinity of salons. Indian authors increasingly wrote works in Hindi , Urdu and Tamil , displacing literature in the Persian language .


The Chinese Empire in 1765

The Chinese Empire was a multi-ethnic empire ruled by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty . In the first half of the century it continued its struggle against the Djungars for influence in Central Asia. Although had Emperor Kangxi the Zungars Guide Galdan defeated in 1696, but his nephew took the Dsungarian expansionist ambitions again. The Djungars conquered Tibet in 1717 in order to secure their influence on the center of Lamaism , to which the majority of the Mongols adhered. Allied with parts of the Tibetan elite, the Qing then expelled the invaders from Tibet, which from then on was under Chinese sovereignty. Domestically, Tibet remained largely independent, with the Qing patronizing the religious authorities. After numerous other campaigns, Emperor Qianlong , who ruled China for over 60 years of this century, smashed the Djungarian Empire in the 1750s. This brought the entire Tarim Basin under Chinese control and in 1759 China reached its greatest extent.

In that century, tax breaks, investments in infrastructure, improved agricultural technology and the cultivation of new crops from America resulted in the Chinese population more than doubling and the economy growing strongly. In China's south-east in particular, specialized agriculture developed on an unprecedented scale, with only a minority of peasant households now practicing subsistence farming . The preference for growing commercially lucrative crops went so far that China eventually imported rice as its staple food. The average standard of living of Chinese farmers far exceeds that of their French colleagues.

Population growth was also supported by effective famine control measures, which included market-oriented use of grain stocks. The increasing population in the core areas triggered a strong migration to the border areas of the empire, especially in the south-west. There, the immigrants turned the originally native residents into minorities. In the second half of the century, however, fewer and fewer additional resources, such as arable land, were available to cope with the population growth. There were also deficiencies in the administration. Large corruption networks and underpaid local officials imposed ever higher taxes on the population and reduced state benefits. Armed uprisings broke out, particularly in the outskirts of the empire, which were only suppressed with great difficulty. The uprising of the “ White Lotus ” attracted particular attention .

Trading on the water, picture by Xu Yang (18th century)

In the manufacturing industry, the number and size of factories increased in some regions and industries. In addition to the textile industry, mining, porcelain manufacture and tea processing were also important industries. Certain factories only produced for export. Some companies served the European demand that arose from the fashion of chinoiserie . In the 18th century, China was heavily involved in trade with the economically strong regions of the world such as India, Europe and Southeast Asia. From 1759, European traders were only allowed to trade through cantons and licensed Chinese trading companies. High tariffs severely reduced their profits, which led to mounting tensions. The Emperor rejected the demands of the British Macartney Mission for trade liberalization.

Strong urbanization went hand in hand with the economic and population growth. Beijing was the largest city in the world. Nevertheless, the city dwellers only made up a small proportion of the total population. The urban culture, shaped by handicrafts, commerce, writing, mobility and the public, radiated beyond the cities to the rest of the country. The differentiation opened up mobility spaces that gave women more space for independent economic activity.

The Manchurian Qing emperors ruled China in an authoritarian manner. Through the system of palace entries, they could in part rule bypassing the hierarchical system of officials on which they otherwise relied. The basis for the selection of civil servants was an examination system that primarily tested knowledge of Neo-Confucianism , the state ideology of the German Empire. The Qing promoted this trend of Confucianism with the intention that their ideas should induce the subjects to recognize their rule, even if they were emperors of Manchurian and non-Chinese descent. On the one hand, they allowed the neo-Confucian teachings to be spread among the general public, and on the other hand, their strict censorship hindered dissenting opinions. In the course of the century, an ever larger group of graduates of the civil service examinations could not find a job in the civil service apparatus. When they did not find employment in the local government, these men became private scholars financed by local sponsors. However, they became a problem for the court, since they were beyond its control and exposed important texts of the state-supporting neo-Confucianism as forgery. The court tried to get them back with scientific projects. Some of these projects should collect and summarize the knowledge of the Chinese literature of the past centuries, for example in the form of encyclopedias.

Korea and Japan

In Korea, kings ruled based on a stratum of rival noble clans. By distributing offices proportionally among the nobles in this century, the monarchs essentially stopped fighting between the clans. In the second half of the century, in addition to origin, suitability for assigning offices became more important.

Over the course of the century, the introduction of new agricultural techniques in grain and rice cultivation resulted in a sharp increase in yields and population growth. This led to an upswing in private handicrafts, which at the end of the century reached the same level as state handicraft businesses. With increasing economic success, the prosperity of an increasing number of the non-aristocrats approached that of the aristocrats. Increasing opportunities for representation and the purchase of offices by the newcomers narrowed the gap between nobles and non-nobles. However, the economic growth was accompanied by famine due to fluctuating harvest yields in combination with land concentration. The displeasure of impoverished peasants at the inability of the corruption-weakened government to stand by them led to several peasant uprisings at the end of the century. There were further upheavals in intellectual life. Scholars turned away from the moral-philosophical works and looked for concrete knowledge about agriculture, geography and administration in historical reports.

Even if Japan was formally an empire, the shoguns of the Tokugawa dynasty held the actual power of governance in the country. They ruled Japan from Edo , today's Tokyo , which is why this Japanese era is also called the Edo period . The local rulers, daimyos , controlled them by imposing regular maintenance duties on them in the capital and by setting up a parallel administrative system.

The shogunate maintained its policy of restrictively minimizing and regulating Japan's foreign contacts from the previous century throughout the 18th century, even when foreign trade was encouraged for several decades. The few trading partners in the strictly regulated trade were Dutch, Chinese and Koreans. However, that didn't stop the Japanese from studying the Western achievements they learned through these channels, what they called Dutch Studies . Officially, the shoguns promoted Chinese neo-Confucianism according to Zhu Xi and suppressed all other Confucian endeavors. In response to this Chinese teaching, some sections of the population developed the national teaching, kokugaku , and explored Japanese history in search of what was originally Japanese.

Economic reforms by the shogunate, which focused on thrift, import reductions and the development of new territory, contributed to the overall positive economic development. In addition to the merchants and craftsmen, agriculture was also an engine of the economic boom. The possibility of increasing production for the market was a drive for the farmers to work more productively and thus to increase their standard of living. In addition, agricultural production was increased through the development of new areas. The urban artisans and merchants gained increasing social influence. The urbanization of Japanese society, particularly concentrated in the cities of Edo , Osaka and Kyoto , increased during this century.

From the 1770s onwards, the Japanese shoguns felt threatened by the foreign ships that were increasingly being sighted off Japan's coasts. Tensions over the Kuril Islands increased, particularly between Japan and Russia .

South East Asia

In 1781 Amarapura became the capital of Burma.

The Southeast Asian mainland was shaped by the Burmese , Thai and Vietnamese empires. In Burma, groups from Unterbirma revolted against the rule of the Upper Burmese Taungu dynasty , first conquered power in Unterbirma and finally the capital Ava , where they killed the king. The chief burmane Alaungpaya drove them out of the capital again and was crowned king as the founder of the Konbaung dynasty . He recaptured sub-company in the 1750s. With the destruction of the Thai city of Ayutthaya in 1767 by his successor, the Thai empire of the same name fell apart. In Thailand, however, the Burmese could not hold out for long and had to withdraw. After another unsuccessful campaign against the Thais , another king of the dynasty, Badon Min , succeeded in conquering the culturally related coastal kingdom of Arakan in the 1780s , which was also in the interests of British Bengal .

The destruction of Ayutthaya cleared the way for the creation of a new Thai Buddhist kingdom under Rama I . He founded the Chakri dynasty , which is still the head of Thailand today. Allied with Chinese merchants, Rama established Bangkok as the capital, to which the power structures were centralized. With military campaigns he expanded his empire to include the small Thai kingdoms of the north and brought parts of what is now Laos and Cambodia under his rule.

With this expansion, the new empire came into conflict with Vietnam. Here the Nguyen from central Vietnam had expanded their empire into the Mekong Delta and began to build a modern empire based on the Chinese model. In the 1770s, the Tây-Sơn brothers conquered the territory of the Nguyen and North Vietnam. But their decline began in the last few years of the century.

The successes of Burma and Thailand at the end of the century were achieved by their rulers by making their system of rule more rational, systematic and centralized towards them. The measures included a land survey, systematisation and writing of the legal system and the establishment of a rational tax system. These measures and the census of the population contributed to the establishment of a powerful army.

While the mainland with the Buddhist Burma and Thailand as well as Vietnam was divided into three large domains, the rulership structures of the Southeast Asian archipelago were more diverse. With the exception of the Catholic Spanish Philippines , the archipelago was shaped by Islam. As shipping increased, Muslims' connections to the Middle East increased, bringing fundamentalist ideas to Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, the Catholic missionary mission of the monastic orders was successful, which, in addition to managing large estates, also operated infrastructure such as schools and health centers. In the first half of the century, the Philippines were predominantly an Asian trading center that was economically closely interwoven with Spanish-American colonies. In the second half of the century, the Asian colony turned from a trading post to a sugar cane and tobacco growing area.

Batavia was the capital of the Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia.

The Dutch East India Company (VOC), which expanded its Southeast Asian colonial territory, particularly on the island of Java , also relied on the cultivation of sugar cane and coffee. When the VOC went bankrupt in 1795, the Dutch Batavian Republic took over its colonies. For other Europeans, Southeast Asia was a trading center, which they used as a sales market and an intermediary for both European and Asian goods. Nevertheless, the share of European traders in Southeast Asian trade remains small.

Rather, the overseas Chinese became the most important economic players in Southeast Asia. In the second half of the century in particular, they were not only involved in trade and the local economy, such as in the Malaysian copper mining, but also increasingly settled. Chinese entrepreneurs bought monopolies on the trade and production of certain groups of goods. For their business they relied heavily on Chinese workers who immigrated in large groups. One reason for this increased activity was that the Chinese emperors allowed them to return foreign assets to China from 1754 onwards. This made it more lucrative for them to serve the growing Chinese demand. On the other hand, the Chinese got involved in local politics and adapted to local cultures. In addition to the Chinese, many small Southeast Asian empires and their merchants also benefited from the trade. In this century the Bugis group gained a strong share in the trade and politics of the Southeast Asian empires.

America and Oceania

North America

The propaganda about the " Boston Massacre " contributed to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War .

At the beginning of the century, the British and French colonies shared the North American east coast while Spain had colonies in Florida and north of Mexico. Numerous indigenous tribes inhabited the largest area of ​​the continent west of the Appalachians . The 13 British colonies were by far the most heavily populated regions and their population continuously multiplied by European immigrants. The largest groups of voluntary European immigrants came from Great Britain, Ireland and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . In a steady movement to the west, the immigrants increasingly cultivated land that they took away from the indigenous people. After all, there was hardly any land left near the larger settlements and rivers.

As they expanded, the British settlers increasingly came into conflict with the French colonists and indigenous groups. These conflicts escalated into the French-Indian War in 1754 , which became the Seven Years War in Europe . In this war for supremacy in North America, indigenous tribes fought on both sides, but mainly on the side of the French. After the British victory, the French had to surrender their territories from the east coast to the Great Lakes to Great Britain and temporarily leave those on the Mississippi to Spain.

While the British colonists had supported the London government in the previous war, disagreements between the two parties over the Appalachian settlement line and over tax and customs laws increased in the years that followed. Furthermore, the colonists unsuccessfully demanded their representation in the London Parliament . The dispute escalated into a civil war and finally to a war of independence . With Spanish, Dutch and French support, the colonists gained their independence , declared in 1776 , which was officially recognized by Great Britain in 1783. In the years that followed, they developed the first democratic federal state based on a constitution that is still in force today with some additions. The constitution was based on the ideals of the Enlightenment, such as the separation of powers . However, the right to vote excluded large groups of the population such as all women, as well as indigenous peoples and slaves.

Even before independence, the plantation economy expanded in the south . Mostly African slaves worked on the plantations, and large numbers of them were brought to North America. However, some northern states banned slavery. As before independence, US trade was closely intertwined with Great Britain. But after independence he no longer benefited from the protection of the British Royal Navy . High protection money payments to the North African barbarian states were a reason for the Americans to build their own strong navy .

Russia penetrated through Alaska to Northern California . The driving force behind the Russian pioneers was the high profits they made from the skins of native animals such as seals. To stop Russian expansion, the Spanish expanded their colonial territory to the north, where they established San Francisco as the northernmost city . In the southern Great Plains they met the Comanche and Apache tribes who had been buying horses and firearms from European traders since the 17th century. Since the middle of the 18th century they robbed Spanish settlements in Texas and New Mexico and then sold their looted property in Louisiana, France, and since 1763 Spanish .

Hispaniola slave revolt

The Caribbean had been colonized by various European empires and territorially fragmented. As on the North American mainland, the European nations competed militarily there as well. As a result of the armed conflict, some territories changed hands. After Caribbean piracy experienced its golden age in the first decades of the century , massive persecutions by European powers made it meaningless in the Caribbean.

On the Caribbean islands, the colonial powers promoted the cultivation of sugar cane , which was grown in increasingly larger quantities with a constantly optimized plantation economy. A few large plantations displaced many smaller plantations. For the Europeans, the Caribbean sugar cane was by far the most important export good from their colonies. The use of a rapidly increasing number of African slaves as cheap labor not only made the plantation economy particularly lucrative for the Europeans, but also made the very strong growth in sugar production possible. Because of the harsh working conditions, many slaves died, the vast majority of whom were men. Some groups of escaped slaves established several settlements in remote parts of the islands. In the 1790s, former slaves conquered part of the island of Hispaniola in what is known as the Haitian Revolution . In doing so, they laid the foundations for the first independent Caribbean state, Haiti , founded in 1804 .

Latin America

South America in 1754

Central America and western South America belonged to the Spanish colonial empire in the 18th century , while rival Portugal included the east of South America and the Amazon region among its colonies. Portugal, the second great colonial power on the continent, expanded its colonial territory much further west over the course of the century than was agreed with the Spanish in the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. The expansion resulted in numerous border conflicts, which were provisionally settled in the Treaty of Madrid of 1750 . This treaty, in which Spain granted Portugal much larger colonial territories than in 1494, could not settle all border conflicts, which only succeeded in 1777 in the Treaty of San Ildefonso . Both treaties influenced the border lines in what is now South America.

The kings of Portugal and Spain decided centrally on important posts and laws in the colonies, where they were represented by one or more viceroys . In the first half of the century, the Creoles , the descendants of Spanish immigrants, had access to the highest offices in the colonies through the purchase of offices and corruption. The distance to the mother country and the ignorance of the Europeans about the local conditions gave them a great deal of leeway. In the second half of the century, the Spanish crown sought more control and higher tax revenues from the colonies. It divided the viceroyalty of Peru into several viceroyalty and, analogous to the motherland, introduced a system of upper administrative officials, intendants , who were directly subordinate to the king. The Catholic Church, which had its own administration, remained an important pillar of Spanish rule. Through the administrative reforms of the crown, in particular through the cessation of the sale of offices, Creoles, who occupied a large part of the administrative posts, were pushed back by office holders of European descent in numerous key positions. Similar administrative reforms were carried out by Portugal, with power being concentrated more in the new capital Rio de Janeiro .

To intensify its rule, the Spanish crown carried out numerous state initiatives in order to gain more knowledge about the colonies and their local peculiarities. Another source of knowledge were the country descriptions written by missionaries. In addition, the South American colonial rulers opened their area to foreign naturalists. As a result, some foreign scientific academies funded expeditions to remote areas of South America, such as the Amazon basin . The exchange of information was improved by regular mail ships between Spain and America. Stimulated by the Enlightenment , the American elites also strived for more knowledge, but were confronted with an increasingly disparaging view of America from European Enlightenmentists. Nevertheless, they developed pride in their own continent, which was nourished by the knowledge acquired from participating in the scientific expeditions.

The South American economy grew on the one hand through population growth and on the other hand through the export of silver. Mexico with its silver mines replaced Peru as the most important mining area. Due to the rapidly increasing demand of the world economy for means of payment, the silver price remained at a very profitable level despite the sharp increase in volumes. Other sources of income for the Spanish Crown and South American administration were tax revenues, which grew due to both the economic upswing and higher tax rates. The monopoly on tobacco, which was grown in large quantities in both Cuba and Mexico, also added to the revenue. South American trade, which was the most profitable sector of the South American economy, was closely linked to smuggling and could hardly be controlled by the Spanish colonial power. The plantation economy , which made cultivation more effective, became increasingly important to the Latin American economy. In Brazil, the sugar cane plantations in particular expanded. The work of African slaves, more than 6 million of whom were abducted to America this century, made the plantations lucrative.

The society of the Spanish colonies was hierarchically stratified according to the ethnic origin of the people. While the Europeans and Creoles made up the elite, the African slaves were at the lower end of the social scale. In addition, the sharp differences between rich and poor became even greater this century. The tax reforms of the colonial powers particularly affected the middle and poorer classes. Together with other socio-economic upheavals, these pressures gave rise to local revolts, of which the Tupaq Amaru II uprising in 1780/81 was the most violent. The Spanish colonial power was able to put down all uprisings militarily, but only at the cost of a heavy burden on the state budget.


In the middle of the century began a world race between the English and the French for dominance in the Pacific Ocean . Before this point in time, Europeans were mainly concerned with exploring an optimal route from America to Asia, but the new wave of explorers, of which James Cook is the most famous, systematically explored the Pacific. One of their great goals was the search for a supposed large southern continent, Terra Australis , which however turned out to be an illusion. Rather, the British began to map Australia and New Zealand and colonize them as a settlement colony that they wanted to colonize quickly to forestall the French. Britain shipped inmates of its overcrowded prisons to Australia for rapid colonization.


  • Bernd Hausberger , Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 .
  • Series: The eighteenth century - Supplementa (published by the German Society for Research in the Eighteenth Century). Göttingen: Wallstein.

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Commons : 18th century  collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bernd Hausberger , Jean-Paul Lehners: The 18th century: an acceleration . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 16-17, 21-25, 33 .
  2. Andreas Weigl : Population history of Europe: from the beginnings to the present . Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2012, ISBN 978-3-8252-3756-1 , p. 41-42 .
  3. ^ A b c d e Christian Kleinschmidt: Economic history of the modern times . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-70800-8 , p. 22, 25, 29, 35 .
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m Norbert Franz, Jean-Paul Lehners: Change through reason? From the class to the civil society - Western Europe . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 186-188, 193-195, 201, 206, 208-211 .
  5. a b c d e f g Michael Mann : A long 18th century - South Asia . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 277-278, 282, 286, 290, 295 .
  6. a b c d e f Karl Vocelka : Austrian history . 3. Edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-61630-3 , p. 47-48 .
  7. a b c d Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger : The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . 5th edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-53599-4 , p. 89-109 .
  8. a b c d e f g Peter Claus Hartmann : History of France - From the Middle Ages to the present . 5th edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-67330-6 , p. 23, 35-54 .
  9. ^ A b Walther L. Bernecker : Spanish history . 6th edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-48087-4 , p. 47, 54-55 .
  10. a b c d Hans-Heinrich Nolte : The peace of the empires - Eastern Europe . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 220, 225, 228, 234 .
  11. ^ A b c d Andreas Kappeler : Russian history . 6th edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-47076-9 , pp. 23-27 .
  12. a b c d Werner Keil : An overview of the history of music (=  basic knowledge of music ). 2nd Edition. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-8252-8576-0 , p. 158-159, 178 .
  13. a b c d e f g Andreas Eckert : The century of the slave trade - Africa . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 78, 82-85, 89 .
  14. a b c d e f g h i j Reinhard Schulze : Waiting for Modernity - The Islamic World . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 246-247, 254-256, 264, 267-269 .
  15. a b c Johanna Pink: History of Egypt - From late antiquity to the present . Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66713-8 , pp. 129-131 .
  16. a b Suraiya Faroqhi : History of the Ottoman Empire . 5th edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-46021-0 , p. 62, 79 .
  17. a b Gudrun Krämer : The Near East and North Africa from 1500 (=  New Fischer world history . No. 9 ). S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2016, ISBN 978-3-10-010829-6 , p. 284-285 .
  18. a b Monika Gronke : History of Iran . CH Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-48021-8 , pp. 83 .
  19. a b c d e f g Hermann Kulke , Dietmar Rothermund : History of India - From the Indus culture to today . 2nd Edition. Special edition. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60414-0 , p. 285-287, 291-293, 299, 306 .
  20. a b c d Angela Schottenhammer: The heyday of an empire - China . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 328, 333, 345 .
  21. a b c d e f g h Kai Vogelsang : History of China . 3. Edition. Reclam-Verlag , Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-15-010933-5 , p. 365, 415, 419, 421, 430, 433, 436-437, 443 .
  22. ^ A b c Marion Eggert , Jörg Plassen: Small history of Korea . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52841-4 , p. 91-97 .
  23. Manfred Pohl : History of Japan . 5th edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66440-3 , p. 53 .
  24. a b c d e f g h Tilman Frasch: Modernization and Autonomy - Southeast Asia . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 307-317 .
  25. ^ A b c d Claudia Schnurmann : Between wars and peace, between freedom and bondage - North America . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 162-164 .
  26. Horst Dippel : History of the USA . 10th edition. Verlag CHBeck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-60166-8 , p. 26 .
  27. a b c d e f g h Bernd Hausberger: Reformed, modernized and ruined - Latin America . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 125, 128-133, 141-143 .
  28. a b c d e Gerhard Pfeisinger: The emergence of a fragmented world - The Caribbean . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 97-105, 113-114 .
  29. a b Hermann Joseph Hiery : Integrated, but not captured - The Pacific . In: Bernd Hausberger, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.): The world in the 18th century . Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-85476-323-9 , pp. 51 .