19th century

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The world around 1815
The world around 1898

The nineteenth century began on January 1, 1801 and ended on December 31, 1900 . The world population at the beginning of this century is estimated at 980 million people, while at the end of the century it is estimated to have increased to 1.65 billion people. The nineteenth century was characterized by global change that had never been seen before in any historical period of this magnitude, depth and dynamism. This change is also known as the beginning of modernity .

In Europe in 1815 after the victory over Napoleon, who had previously conquered large parts of the continent, the old social order was restored in many aspects. However, some legal and economic changes as well as individual territorial reorganizations remained. The ideas of the French Revolution could not be suppressed permanently. The struggle for their realization shaped the century. In Europe, the bourgeoisie and other population groups fought for greater economic and social freedoms. Many European states introduced constitutions that defined the legal relationship between citizens and the state. Political parties were founded and ideologies were formulated.

Of the newly formed nation states, Italy and Germany, which arose in the 1860s and 1870s through the unification of numerous territories, changed the European political landscape the most. The organizational form of the nation state began its triumphal march worldwide.

The European great powers, which held supremacy in world trade and expanded their colonial empires in Africa and Asia, developed into the dominant powers of the world. The greatest colonial power, Great Britain, whose British Empire comprised almost a quarter of the world's population in 1900, ruled the oceans unchallenged. Already in the first half of the century it had completely brought the Indian subcontinent under its control and then conquered Australia from the Aborigines .

It imposed its conditions on the Chinese Empire during the Opium Wars . After the Taiping Uprising was suppressed, the Chinese central power eroded in favor of foreign and local forces. Japan, on the other hand, managed to reform itself fundamentally after the Meiji Restoration by adopting much of it from Europe and the United States. The Ottoman Empire, however, continued to shrink, losing control of all European and North African regions over the course of the century. Africa and Southeast Asia were almost completely colonized by the European powers in the last decades of the century.

In contrast, the regions of South America broke away from their Spanish and Portuguese colonial masters at the beginning of the century. In North America, after independence, the United States of America gained large areas at the expense of Mexico and indigenous tribes . After the American Civil War they became one of the most powerful industrial nations in the world. They benefited from the strong immigration of skilled workers who came from Europe and, to a lesser extent, from Asia. Atlantic migration was a part of global migratory movements that reached unprecedented dimensions in this century. The migratory movements went hand in hand with a high growth of the world population. This was nourished by an agriculture that increased its productivity considerably by increasing efficiency and expanding land. A large part of the rural population migrated to the cities. The cities tried to solve the problems associated with the strong population growth through new technically innovative infrastructure and the institutions of modern mass society .

The Industrial Revolution spread from England to numerous European regions, the USA and Japan over the course of the century. Their structural changes were accompanied by great social inequalities. Key technologies such as the railroad, the steamship and telegraphy led to a sharp increase in the extent and speed of global networking and a change in the perception of distance. Many new scientific discoveries, including in medicine, brought practical improvements for many people.

A previously unheard of use of resources, an economy based on fossil fuels and the massive expansion of settlements and cultural areas led to a major transformation and pollution of the environment . That is why some scientists see the beginning of the Anthropocene as early as the 19th century .


Time models limited by individual dates / events

Various time periods are available for the periodization of the 19th century. The choice depends crucially on the topic examined. For example, key data that are of central importance in political and military history can differ greatly from those in social and economic history . One possibility of periodization is the classic 19th century calendar. It began in 1801 and ended in 1900. However, this time model has weaknesses: Significant turning points did not mark either the beginning or the end of the 19th century. In addition, it is a purely arithmetic solution that cannot do justice to different thematic approaches. The change into a new century was not noticed by most of our contemporaries around 1800. The French revolutionary calendar had abolished the time division according to the Gregorian calendar. It was not until 1806 that France officially returned to the classical European calendar. The beginning of the century was considered to be 1215 in the Muslim world, 2343 in Buddhist regions and the fifth year of the reign of Emperor Jiaqing in China .

Another option is what is known as the Long 19th Century , which spans the period from the French Revolution in 1789 to the start of the First World War in 1914. The long 19th century goes back to the British historian Eric Hobsbawm , who summarized the history of the century in three volumes. The first volume, The Age of Revolution, covers the period from 1789 to 1848. The second volume, The Age of Capital, covers the years between 1848 and 1875. The third volume, The Age of Empire looks at the period from 1875 to 1914. Hobsbawm's Long 19th Century Model has become very powerful as it has been widely adopted from textbooks and introductory historical literature. But this construction of time is also fraught with problems: To date, research has not found a thematic umbrella term that could connect the two halves of the century before or after 1848.

Many historians argue in favor of a short 19th century equivalent to the long 19th century . This often extends from the Congress of Vienna in 1814/1815 to the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, there are also perspectives that begin the brief 19th century with Napoleonic rule and end in the 1880s. Ultimately, no concept of epoch has been able to establish itself without controversy for the entire 19th century. This is where it differs from previous epochs, which combine several centuries (such as the " Middle Ages " or the " Early Modern Times ").

Jürgen Osterhammel draws attention to the problem that there was not a single event in the entire 19th century that was of global importance. For example, the relevance of the French Revolution varies considerably at the European level. The independence of the thirteen colonies in North America in 1783 meant a far deeper turning point for Great Britain than the disempowerment of Louis XVI. For contemporaries in Southeast Asia, the French Revolution played no role at all. Osterhammel only evaluates the crises at the end of the First World War, which also included the Spanish flu , as the first global phenomena. Another argument against a historical periodization of the 19th century is that its starting and ending points can be overestimated: drastic events do not necessarily mark the starting point of a historical development, but can themselves have emerged from processes that played a role even before they occurred. For example, the beginning of the Victorian Age in 1837 did not herald a major upheaval for the global British Empire , because the power of the British monarchy had long been restricted by parliament. Thus the change of the throne itself had comparatively little political weight.

Time models delimited by epoch features

The historian Reinhart Koselleck suggested a conceptually defined period, the so-called Sattelzeit . According to Koselleck, this transitional phase, which linked the European Early Modern Era to European modernity, lasted from around 1750 to 1850: During this period, most terms underwent a historical change in meaning that points to a modern understanding of society. The way in which the world was perceived and interpreted changed linguistically, according to Koselleck's main thesis, fundamentally around 1800. For example, contemporaries began to understand history no longer as something from the past that is repeated cyclically or from which moral lessons for the present can be drawn, rather than seen as an ongoing process.

Osterhammel also advocates a saddle time, but limits the period from 1770 to 1830 and justifies it differently than Koselleck. During this period, first, European colonial rule in North and South America was in crisis ( the thirteen colonies in North America were separated from Great Britain , Haiti became independent from France and Latin America was separated from Spain and Portugal ). Second, the decline of the Middle Eastern and Asian empires emerged (such as the Ottoman Empire, China and the Mongolian successor states). In the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia, the European powers gained greater influence for the first time. Before 1830, democratization of any importance only progressed in the United States of America.

According to Osterhammel, the saddle time was followed by a middle period which, in retrospect, was characteristic of the actual 19th century. This period between the 1830s and 1890s with its upheavals in philosophy and culture roughly corresponds to the Victorian period of which one speaks in Anglo-Saxon countries. Then finally came a critical phase of upheaval around 1880 or after, with the highly imperialist competition between the great powers and other shifts in power, for example with the victory of Japan over China in 1895.


Research also dubbed the 19th century the “European century”: As never before or after, large parts of the globe were exposed to European influences in military, economic, administrative, scientific and cultural terms. This global dominance of Europe did not emerge until the end of the century. By 1900 the European powers had colonies in Africa, Asia and Oceania. Even parts of America were still under European rule, such as some Caribbean islands and Canada. Millions of Europeans also emigrated overseas during the century .

Chronology of political developments

Period of French hegemony (1800-1815)

Europe in 1812 under French domination

Around 1800 the French Revolution expanded into a pan-European event: Napoleon Bonaparte forcibly carried her ideas and reforms beyond the French borders. The dominance of Napoleonic France on the continent was based on a demographic and financial advantage as well as greater political cohesion . Even if the territorial gains claimed by Paris in the Peace of Campo Formio are disregarded, between 14 and 15% of the total European population or between 27 and 29 million people lived in France. In comparison, Great Britain without Ireland had 10.5 million and the Habsburg Empire 25 million inhabitants. Only the multiethnic state of Russia , with 44 million inhabitants, had a significantly higher population than France. However, only half of the Tsar's subjects saw themselves politically and ethnically linked to the state. Separatist secession movements weakened the Habsburg monarchy in particular internally. The cession of territory forced by Napoleon further reduced Austria's productivity. The Holy Roman Empire in central Europe, which existed until 1806 , was territorially highly fragmented. From an economic point of view, Napoleon managed to reorganize the French state budget consistently until 1812. The financing of his wars in South, Central and Central Eastern Europe, he burdened the occupied territories and war opponents.

Between 1792 and 1815, France and the other European powers waged a series of wars. The disputes, known as coalition wars , reached a new dimension that cannot be compared either with the previous cabinet wars or with the subsequent conflicts before the First World War. Five million people fell victim to the coalition wars. Measured against the total European population, this roughly corresponded to the losses in the First World War. Of the French born between 1790 and 1795, one in five perished. Only a few European regions such as Sweden, Norway, England, Sardinia and Sicily were ultimately completely unaffected by foreign troop movements.

The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

The military expansion through France triggered pressure to modernize in large parts of monarchical Europe. Napoleon's increasingly conservative political style ( Concordat of 1801 , creation of a new official nobility and an amnesty for those who emigrated from France during the Revolution) made reforms based on the French model increasingly attractive. In many European countries, gendarmes were set up to provide security in the countryside. Church property was secularized to reorganize the state budget . The European governments often introduced freedom of trade , restricted the legal powers of the aristocracy, created new administrative divisions and opened domestic customs barriers. In some cases, the first constitutions came into force (for example in some German states, Sweden, Sicily and Spain ). Napoleon demanded the direct introduction of the French code civils or its legal system from monarchies ruled by members of his family . However, this was only partially successful.

Overall, there was a stalemate in Europe: while France controlled most of the European continent after the Battle of Austerlitz , Great Britain continued to expand its maritime domination after the Battle of Trafalgar . In order to force Great Britain to negotiate, Napoleon imposed an economic blockade on the kingdom: With a continental block, he tried to cut off London from trade with the rest of Europe and thus ruin it economically. In terms of foreign policy, the European isolation of Great Britain only changed somewhat with the uprisings on the Iberian Peninsula against the French military power and finally with the failure of Napoleon's Russian campaign . The latter military operation heralded the beginning collapse of the Napoleonic empire. Napoleon defeated his European opponents in the Battle of Leipzig and finally at Waterloo in 1815.

Period of Restoration and Revolutions (1815–1849)

Europe after the reorganization by the Congress of Vienna in 1815

From 1815 to 1853 there was largely peace between the European states. Only on the internal level of some countries did civil wars and revolutions shake the political order (for example in the years 1820–1822 in Spain and parts of Italy, 1830–1832 in France , some German and Italian states, Belgium and Russia-occupied Poland, and in 1847–1832) 1850 throughout Europe with the exception of Russia and Great Britain). The overall still relatively stable state of peace was based on the dominance of the five major European powers (France, Great Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia) established in the Congress of Vienna of 1814/1815, which had also included the Ottoman Empire in their foreign security policy since 1830. The new peace system aimed to establish a political balance between the five great powers. In this way a renewed hegemony of a single state over its neighbors should be prevented. At the Congress of Vienna, in particular, the newly founded Netherlands was expanded to include today's Belgium and Prussia's western provinces on the Rhine were significantly enlarged to curb possible French expansionist aspirations. After 1815, the Holy Alliance and several congresses contributed to supranational cooperation between the great powers in Europe (namely the Aachen Congress in 1818, the Troppau Congress in 1820, the Laibach Congress in 1821 and the Verona Congress in 1822).

In addition to creating a stable peace order for Europe, the governments in 1815 also endeavored to restore the traditional monarchical social order . In doing so, they made some concessions to the zeitgeist changed by the French Revolution (for example in the form of parliaments and electoral rights). A restoration in the sense of a re-establishment of the pre-revolutionary social relations was either not even considered or failed in the course of the next decades. Only in Spain, parts of Italy and the Electorate of Hesse did the rulers temporarily reverse all reforms of the Napoleonic era. A restoration or reinstatement of dynasties that had to vacate their throne during the French Revolution and Napoleonic rule (as in France, Spain, Portugal and parts of Italy) was more successful. Domestically, the struggle for constitutions often shaped the first half of the century. In many European countries this led to the revolution of 1848/1849 . The extent of the conflicts over political emancipation varied greatly from Western to Eastern Europe. France and Great Britain reacted to the revolutionary upheaval around 1830 with further reforms and, under constitutional law, went the way towards a parliamentary monarchy. Prussia, Russia and the Habsburg Monarchy, on the other hand, closed themselves to such political change. As before, they did not allow representative bodies in the sense of popular sovereignty (in the case of Prussia and Austria, this only happened under the impact of the revolution of 1848/1849).

Another basic problem of the Viennese order was that the national interests of the population were not taken into account. While “Italy” and “ Germany ” were divided into different states, Poland, Hungary, Ireland and Belgium were subject to foreign rule. These national tensions mixed with liberal opposition forces. To suppress these two movements, the major European powers initially relied on military interventions. This was the case first in Spain: King Ferdinand VII there eliminated the constitution and national assembly that had emerged during the Napoleonic era , reintroduced the Inquisition and persecuted supporters of the former French rule. Provoked by this restorative and absolutist policy, a military coup against the king arose in 1820 . Encouraged by the successes in Spain, there were also uprisings in Sardinia and Sicily, which were put down by Austrian troops. French soldiers marched into Spain in 1823 and restored the king's authority. Interventionism began to crack in the course of the Greek struggle for independence from 1821 to 1829. Although the Greek separation from the Ottoman Empire was a revolutionary act, Russia, Great Britain and France supported it in the decisive naval battle of Navarino . To preserve the monarchical principle, a brother of the ruling Bavarian king was placed on the Athens throne. In 1830, the great powers no longer intervened to prevent a secession from the Kingdom of the United Netherlands , from which the Belgian nation-state was formed. Like the Kingdom of Greece before it, Belgium also received a crowned head from an established ruling house .

While Greece gained independence, Polish efforts to establish a nation-state failed. The November uprising of 1830/31 was suppressed by Russian troops and Congress Poland was fully incorporated into the Tsarist Empire. Poland remained between Prussia, Austria and Russia divided . Later attempts to gain Polish independence, such as the January uprising of 1863/64, also failed.

From 1846 onwards, Europe experienced a wave of revolution that swept across many states and reached its climax in 1848/49 . The revolutions were driven by economic difficulties, the desire for more political participation and personal freedoms, and often also the striving for a nation-state . Most revolutions failed because of the great conflicting interests of the revolutionaries and the monarchical resistance. After the Sonderbund War , Switzerland changed from a confederation to a federal state with a democratic constitution in 1848 .

The second half of the century

Although the revolutionaries were unable to implement their demands immediately, reforms began from above in numerous states. Such constitutions were established in almost all federal states that did not yet have a constitution. The states extended democratic rights of participation and guaranteed limited political and civil liberties. In the second half of the century, both the economy and the role of the state bureaucracy grew in many parts of Europe. Numerous politicians now saw it as the task of the state to give the economy a framework and to promote it through infrastructure projects.

Western Europe pioneered the granting of political participation and civil rights. The British Parliament passed a series of reforms in the second half of the century. After that, the parliament, which had previously been dominated by aristocrats and landowners, could be elected by broader strata of the population and the constituencies were divided more fairly. Religious minorities were given more political rights and career opportunities. In France, Napoleon III. the weaknesses of the Second Republic , which emerged in 1848 , concentrated a large part of the power on itself and established a Caesarean empire. After defeats in foreign policy and domestic pressure, the Kaiser again granted more participation and personal freedom in the 1860s. The Third Republic , which emerged after its fall in 1870, greatly expanded these participation and fundamental rights.

Pressed by military defeats and domestic political tensions, the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Russian Tsarist Empire carried out reforms from above in the 1860s and 1870s. Russia was one of the last European states to repeal serfdom in 1861 . One of the Habsburg reforms was the abolition of manorial rule. With the transformation of the Habsburg Empire into the Austro-Hungarian k and k dual monarchy in 1867, the Hungarians' desire for more independence was given in. However, this was hardly the case for the other nationalities in the Habsburg Empire. Ethnic tensions remained in the empire until its end.

Since the 1848/49 revolutions, the Viennese order gradually dissolved. In the otherwise peaceful period between 1815 and the First World War, the wars that the great powers waged from 1853 to 1871 were an exception. With these wars the monarchical solidarity of the first half of the century ended. This was followed by the gradual introduction of Realpolitik , in which the balancing of mutual interests was increasingly sought bilaterally , and which left hardly any room for the consideration of an ideal international overall system.

The proclamation of the German Empire

The establishment of an Italian and German national state after several wars of unification between 1859 and 1871 fundamentally changed the political balance of Europe. The Kingdom of Italy was founded in Sardinia-Piedmont , which led to several wars against Austria, France, Naples and the Papal States . It was supported by democratic revolutionary movements.

The German Empire under Prussian leadership came into being in the course of the German Wars of Unification (1864–1871) and changed the political balance of power in Europe. On the one hand, the German Confederation dissolved as a stabilizing element for the European order after the German War in 1866. On the other hand, a new great power emerged in Central Europe. The deep political rift that arose between France and Germany in the course of the wars of unification, especially the Franco-German War of 1871, became an important factor influencing European alliance policy. The German unification without Austria increased its focus away from Central Europe, including the Balkans . There it increasingly came into conflict of interest with Russia.

With complex alliance systems, the European states managed to achieve a balance among themselves. In the 1870s and 80s, the German Empire sought a balance between the rival great powers. In doing so, he managed to politically isolate his rival France. German alliance policy also survived the Balkan crisis of 1875–1878, in which the conflicts in the Balkans led to pan-European tensions.

Throughout the second half of the century there was an accelerated disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans through numerous ethnic-national movements and uprisings. New nation states such as Serbia and Romania , as well as quasi-autonomous areas such as Bulgaria emerged. These were internationally recognized at the end of the Balkan crisis at the Berlin Congress of 1878. Nationalism in the Balkans led to violent clashes that were directed not only against the Ottoman Sultan, but also against other ethnic groups.

Political and social trends

Legal equality and dissolution of the statutes

In response to the political changes introduced in French-occupied territories with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, numerous European princes had also initiated reforms in their territories. Even if some changes were reversed after the Napoleonic defeat, significant changes remained. The dissolution of the feudal social and economic order was initiated in west and central Europe. In place of the class society of the last millennia, the bourgeois society emerged, the principles of which were increasingly implemented in Europe, albeit at regionally different speeds.

In the class society, the rights of the individual were tied to the social class, which was essentially determined by birth. In bourgeois society everyone had the same rights and duties in principle, from which minorities like the Jews also benefited. The use of rights, however, strongly depended on gender, the standing of the parental home, ethnic aspects, education, income and wealth. So new social classes were formed , which were often very different from one another. Particularly against the backdrop of industrialization, 19th century societies continued to be characterized by great social and economic inequality.

The majority of the nobility retained an important position in many countries, which was increasingly based on economic foundations and social conventions.

Palace of Westminster , seat of the British Parliament

Monarchy, constitution and parliament

With the exception of a few states, such as Switzerland and the Third French Republic , the European states were monarchies . After the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the monarchs legitimized themselves through a successful representation of the nation instead of through divine right . They had to subordinate personal or dynastic interests. They were under pressure from influential groups in society to introduce a constitution , let the population vote for parliaments , and involve these parliaments in government. These demands have been implemented in different ways in Europe over the course of the century, although there was no comprehensive democratic participation in any country. In many states the monarchy was restricted by a constitution. Many countries set up parliaments. Increasingly more male citizens were able to vote, but in many countries, even at the turn of the century, important groups, such as Great Britain, remained excluded from the vote. In return, the British Parliament had a very far-reaching influence on the government. In contrast, the influence of the German Reichstag , which could be elected by almost the entire adult male population, was considerably more limited.

Ideologies, parties and freedom of the press

The efforts of many rulers after 1815 to restrict political discussion in public and in associations were only of limited success. In the course of the century, the scope for political discourse tended to increase. The increased circulation of printed products, especially newspapers, thanks to new printing techniques , played a supporting role. The degree of freedom of the press varied widely across Europe. While England was a pioneer in freedom of the press from the 1830s , there was formally freedom of the press in Germany from 1874, but this was in fact restricted by penal laws. Even if the political discourse was partially hindered, political ideologies such as liberalism , conservatism and, in the second half of the century, socialism emerged in many European countries . Many parties founded during this century represented one of these ideologies, a specific ethnic or religious group, or both.

Nation state, nationalism and imperialism

The Berlin Conference of 1884/85 served to regulate the European occupation of Africa by numerous European states and the United States.

Over the course of the century, nation states were formed and consolidated in many European countries . While in Western Europe existing countries such as Great Britain and France completed their transformation into nation states, a German and Italian nation state were formed from several previously independent territories. In the Balkans, in turn, several nation-states emerged as a result of the secession from the Ottoman Empire . With the introduction of citizenship, the nation states defined personal affiliation to the state. Regardless of whether a nation state already existed or was just about to emerge, nationalists propagated an idea of ​​their nation and its people , which they tried to define according to uniform characteristics such as language. They contrasted this feeling of unity with the demarcation of neighboring societies and non-conforming minorities .

In the course of their imperial expansion , the Europeans established new colonies in Asia and above all in Africa, which they almost completely divided up among themselves. In addition to reasons of prestige and great power fantasies, it was not least the concern that drove the European states to fall behind their European competitors. In 1880 a European race for Africa began . Hopes for the exploitation of raw materials, the securing of sales markets and the development of settlement areas for the people of their own nation were also associated with colonization. After all, Europeans wanted to export their religion and European culture, which for them was superior to all other cultures. Despite all the rivalries, the European powers succeeded in negotiating disputes over colonial borders.

The new colonies incorporated the colonial rulers into the administrative structures of the mother countries. The colonies were economically very lucrative for individual groups of Europeans, but for the economies of the mother countries either a zero-sum game, as in the case of the Netherlands and Great Britain, or a losing business.

International cooperation

In the 19th century, the breadth of cross-border activities increased sharply. The cooperation encompassed economic, scientific, religious, emancipatory, political and numerous other topics. Transnational movements were for example the Red Cross movement , the peace movement , the Jewish emancipation movement and the socialist labor movement . International organizations in which members of different nations voluntarily and permanently joined together were a new phenomenon of this century.

The basis for the increase in international cooperation were the new communication options, such as mass press and telegraphy , as well as the facilitation of travel, for example by rail. The cooperation partners were motivated to resolve the conflicts that arose from international traffic. The increasing strengthening of the nation state did not stand in the way of international cooperation, since it was seen as a means of foreign policy.

Social roles of women and men

Changed working environments and urbanization have also led to changes in family life and a new definition of the roles of men and women in large parts of the population. In more and more professions, the place of work and place of residence separated, meaning that the family's apartment was no longer a common place of work and residence. In this environment an ideal developed that the man ascribed the nourishment of the family outside the home and the woman housekeeping and raising children. This social model was only realized in its pure form in a few wealthy middle-class families, while in the majority of working-class families the wife had to earn some money. In contrast to the lower classes , the upper classes were rarely able to realize the ideal of marriage out of romantic love. The striving for education, independence, individuality and the cultivation of one's own feelings belonged to the emerging bourgeois ideals that radiated to other social classes.

In the second half of the century, the women's movement in Western and Central Europe became increasingly stronger. Her focus was initially on improving living conditions, such as access to education for girls and women. Few privileged women were able to study in several European countries from the second half of the century. At the turn of the century, there was increasing fighting for women's suffrage .

Economy and technology

Eisenwalzwerk , oil painting by Adolph von Menzel , 1875

The liberation of regulations, technological advances and population growth resulted in such a massive change in the economy as in no century before. The agricultural revolution of the previous century continued. On the one hand, improved cultivation methods as well as the use of technology and artificial fertilizers contributed to the increase in food production and the population increase in rural areas. On the other hand, the change in rural ownership in some European countries in the course of the peasant liberation increased agricultural productivity .

Efficiency and population growth resulted in a large number of free labor in rural areas. The increasing industrial competition and free trade led to a sales crisis in rural businesses, especially in the textile sector. So the number of the poor in the countryside grew, which was called pauperism . The rural poverty led to strong waves of migration to European growth regions and overseas. A great deal of free rural labor migrated to the cities. There the industrial companies, which grew strongly in the course of the industrial revolution, took up the workforce. In this century, the population of many cities multiplied. The number of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants has tripled in the last half of the century. The large number of workers and little government regulation made it possible for a few wealthy factory owners to employ their workers for barely adequate wages and harsh working conditions. This led to the impoverishment of large social classes in the cities. As the century progressed, an increasingly broader public took this social issue as a problem. To find a solution, unions were formed to negotiate better wages with employers. Political parties or actors demanded legal regulations. In the course of the century, protective laws were passed to improve working conditions and curb child labor. In Germany, social insurances were introduced which provided minimal coverage.

The agricultural revolution and new technology were important drivers for the industrial revolution, which fundamentally changed not only the economy, but also society and the mentality of the people. In the previous century Great Britain began in some sectors with mechanized, factory-based, division of labor, capital-intensive production. Over the course of the century, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany, northern Italy and western Austria followed suit. Industrialization, which was also concentrated in some regions within the countries, first began in the textile sector and then expanded to other sectors such as mechanical engineering, steel production and the chemical industry.

At the beginning of the century, agriculture was by far the most important economic sector in the continental European countries. In the course of the century their relative importance in favor of the industrial and commercial sector and the service sector decreased sharply in many European countries. Fossil powered machines were characteristic of the new industrial operations. The strong division of labor in the factories required fixed working hours. This work rhythm forced many people to structure their everyday life according to the time.

The Badische Aniline- und Soda-Fabrik in Ludwigshafen on a postcard from 1881

Industrialization required more and more capital . The capital for privately financed infrastructure investments, high investments in machinery and the emergence of large companies with several hundred thousand employees could often only be raised by many investors. In response, corporations emerged whose owners limited their liability and turned management over to salaried managers.

Business and trade benefited from the ever greater networking within Europe and with overseas. The construction of railroads mainly in the second half of the century boosted the economy through high investments and the much faster transport of goods. Steam shipping accelerated and intensified the lucrative import of raw materials from overseas and the export of finished goods to the world. While the international standardization of measurements and weights made it easier for companies to compete internationally, the telegraph accelerated economic disposition .

In the second half of the century, living conditions improved in numerous European countries, so that most people gained at least a minimum of material security. Many cities were modernized, city walls torn down and the infrastructure greatly improved, for example through the construction of a sewer system.

science and education

Postcard: Scholars and researchers 1800–1900

Building on the knowledge of the previous century, the sciences made great strides. The individual fields of science broke down and became more professional. The rapid change in society encouraged us to study it systematically. This is how social sciences emerged , such as economics and sociology . In the course of the 19th century, a clear separation of social and natural sciences became established . The latter in particular made rapid advances that had an impact on old age. They broke down and became more professional. Compared to previous centuries, their findings were put into practice much faster. Examples of this are the advances in knowledge about organic chemistry , electricity and magnetism .

Medicine made a fundamental change in the second half of the century when it attributed illnesses to malfunctioning body cells. Based on chemistry, physics and biology, she focused on what can be quantified. In the search for cause-and-effect relationships, bacteria were perceived as the cause of disease. The discovery and control of numerous pathogens had an impact on the lives of millions across national borders. On the basis of the findings, but also through better hygiene and health education, epidemics were significantly reduced.

Universities and non-university research institutions were of great importance for the research. The Europe-wide exchange of the structurally very different European research institutions contributed significantly to the successes in the natural sciences. The universities got their offspring from a school system that was set up in an increasingly targeted manner. A general compulsory education , which affected the entire population, has been introduced in many countries. Many countries also taught girls to a large extent, but they rarely received higher education.

Religion and belief

The First Vatican Council of 1870 adopted the papal jurisdiction primacy and the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope in making final decisions in doctrines of faith and morals.

The strong social changes caused by liberalization, urbanization and the industrial revolution also set religious beliefs in motion. Furthermore, the rapidly increasing scientific knowledge such as the theory of evolution came into conflict with previous religious worldviews and led to widespread public controversy. Views that explained the world in a purely materialistic way were opposed to traditional religious worldviews.

Many states provided denominational and religious minorities with legal equality. The new benefits benefited both members of Christian denominations and Jews. However, towards the end of the century, the latter were confronted with increased anti-Semitism among larger social groups. The nation states strove to control more and more areas of life, such as school education, which the churches had previously claimed. After the dissolution of numerous central European ecclesiastical principalities in the 1800s, secularization , and finally with the almost complete abolition of secular rule by the Pope in 1870, the secular rule of the Roman Catholic Church was almost completely ended.

This led to changes in religious practice, theology, and the churches. Many churches turned increasingly to social welfare , which now shaped their public perception to a considerable extent. Pilgrimages became increasingly popular among Catholics. The majority of Roman Catholic believers aligned themselves even more closely with the Popes, which was called ultramontanism . These condemned liberalism and modernity, allowed the supreme judicial power over the entire church and claimed infallibility in certain questions of faith . However, this new theological direction also led to a contradiction in the Church, which led to splits like that of the Old Catholics . The Protestant faiths also became more diverse. Free churches independent of the state were founded. With the Prussian attempt at a Protestant union , however, there were also efforts at unification. Protestant reformers formulated new theological approaches, such as the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible , which was understood as the response of Protestant theology to the Enlightenment.

Conflicts arose several times over the course of the century between the churches, which rejected liberalism and modernity and were deprived of their former privileges, and the nation-states, which were supported by liberal circles. In the 1870s, the culture war between the predominantly Protestant German Empire and the Roman Catholic Church escalated . As a result, the church had to accept state school supervision and the primacy of civil marriage. On the other hand, the Kulturkampf in Germany led to the development of a strong Catholic political party . Overall, an increasing separation of church and state could be observed in Western and Central Europe. However, there was no secularization in the sense of a loss of importance for the churches or religion in public life.

Missionary work began to increase in order to increase the number of Christians outside Europe . A very important goal of this mission, which was also carried out significantly by Evangelical Christians for the first time in this century, was sub-Saharan Africa.

The numerous new scientific findings and social developments meant that the present was increasingly perceived as a result of past developments. By continuing this idea, one saw the future largely shapeable. With socio-economic analysis one tried to predict this. At the end of the century, the general great optimism, especially in literature, was increasingly replaced by pessimistic ideas about the future.

While some historians tried to recognize generally valid laws by studying history, the goal of national histories was to work out identifying features to promote the formation of the nation state or nationalism .

Art, culture and media

Social and technical upheavals also had an impact on art and culture. No century before has it produced such a variety of artistic innovations as this one. Different styles of art stood side by side or included only a part of the arts.

Many painters and sculptors carried on the styles of classicism and romanticism that emerged at the end of the 18th century into the 1830s. Inspired by the Enlightenment, antiquity was the outstanding reference point for classicism. Simplicity of presentation and sublimity of expression were important to him. He only allowed the stylistic devices of antiquity to apply, whereby the frame and contour in particular were very important to him.

At the same time, romanticism staged itself as a counter-movement to classicism. Since the romantic artists saw reason overemphasized in classical art, they upgraded the individual feeling. They put this against the alienation and isolation of the incipient mass society . While Greek and Roman antiquity formed the sole orientation for their art for classicism, the romantics valued nature, mythical places, the Middle Ages, the Orient or the dramatic events of the day. The images should evoke strong emotions in the viewer. The viewer should lose the distance to the pictures. They broke with traditional shapes and contours and gave color more weight.

In contrast to the previous epochs, which presented their motifs in an idealized manner, realism introduced lifelike representation in the middle of the century. New image motifs such as everyday scenes were presented much more frequently and in image formats that were previously reserved for other motifs.

The painting Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet was
painted in the style of impressionism .

With the invention of photography , many artists felt relieved of the depiction of reality. With the new tube colors, the city painters could paint in nature without much effort. The railroad quickly brought them into nature. All these developments led to the impressionist artists often painting their environment outside the studio as it appeared to them in the fleeting moment. To achieve this effect, they gave up the detail of the pictures in favor of color. After that, art split in many directions. Some painters who represented the direction of symbolism saw behind the objective another reality that could only be experienced subjectively. In their pictures they tried different means to convey a certain state of mind to the viewer.

Museums, which developed their current modern form in the 19th century, gained increasing importance in order to educate a bourgeois audience through the display of art and nature. The world exhibitions , which took place frequently in the second half of the century and exhibited the latest developments in science, technology and art, met with a worldwide response .

The official architecture was initially shaped by classicism , which imitated and mixed ancient architectural styles. After that, buildings were erected within the framework of historicism , which were based on the architectural styles of various past architectural epochs and developed them further. The neo-Gothic applied the advanced Gothic style not only to churches, but also to sacred buildings . In addition to buildings that were based on historical architectural styles, buildings made of iron, steel and glass were erected in previously unknown sizes. In the first half of the century, the interior design of many apartments of the German upper middle class was shaped by the Biedermeier period.

In addition to classicism, romanticism shaped European literature at the beginning of the century. She emancipated feeling in addition to pure reason and developed numerous varieties in the process. German-language literature incorporated supernatural beings and unnatural events into literature. An important motive was the escape from the world and the idealization of the popular and the Middle Ages . In the middle of the century, authors began to exclude banal motifs from the 19th century in literature. In doing so, they aestheticized the trivial . Some writers radicalized the approach by addressing the ugly sides of life and the grotesque. Great realistic social novels portrayed a panorama of the society of that time and at the same time examined its mechanisms of action. The thematic opening meant that the social problems of the lower classes became the subject of literature for the first time.

With the strong increase in reading skills in the population, the need for literature increased, which was met by a rapidly growing number of works, especially in the 1880s / 90s. The authors were under constant pressure to innovate . The writers, who had an artistic claim, tried to set themselves apart from the crowd by poeticizing. In the process, they invented new stylistic devices, such as the frame story. The dominant genre was the bourgeois novel . A rapidly increasing proportion of the readers were women. Most of the literature was written by men, but some female authors found a large audience.

The music, which for many of the people of the time was the highest of all arts, followed the style of Romanticism almost entirely. In contrast to their classic predecessors, the romantics emphasized aesthetic aspects. In addition, they broke with more and more musical conventions over the course of the century. The expanded harmony , the expansion of the timbres , musical breaks within the pieces as well as open beginnings and ends were typical of the music. The composers set current poetry to music, which resulted in the art song. Many also looked for the specific sounds of their homeland and turned to folk songs .

The Italian and German opera traditions shaped opera , which was very popular in the 19th century. Some of the innovations of 19th century opera were the dissolution of the strict separation of the scenes, the easier singability of the pieces, greater drama of the pieces and the leitmotif.

Romanticism was primarily bourgeois music that addressed an increasingly large bourgeois audience. Some musicians developed a celebrity cult around them and toured the concert halls of Europe at a rapid pace . Musical impressionism began at the end of the century .

In contrast to the previous centuries, the arts could no longer rely on ecclesiastical and aristocratic sponsors . In addition to limited government contracts, they were largely dependent on the market. Here the artists often had to choose between the avant-garde path and the mass market. The avant-gardists wooed a middle-class audience that shuttled back and forth between the two routes. Overall, European art had a great impact on the nation states of America and the rest of the world.


Numerous historians divide the 19th century in Africa into two periods. The first period was characterized by extensive African autonomy. During this period, new empires were formed. Overseas trade and production for the world market increased sharply. These changes also resulted from outside African influences. This included the gradual ban on the export of slaves. Another influence was the growing demand for raw materials from Europeans, who, with the exception of South Africa, were only present on the fringes of Africa. But religious ideas from the Middle East, Europe and America also influenced the changes in Africa.

Historians start the second period of the century at different times between the mid-century and the 1880s. It was characterized by an increasing direct European intervention. From the 1880s onwards, a number of European states put most of Africa under their rule in a race . This race ended shortly before the First World War , which is why some historians speak of a long century. European rule brought with it numerous political, economic and cultural changes in Africa.

Instead of a sharp time demarcation, some historians see developments that run through the entire century, such as the increasing formation of larger political units, the increasing interaction of Africans with the rest of the world and the increasing interaction of Europeans with Africans in Africa. Finally, numerous historians emphasize the importance of taking regional diversity into account when analyzing and portraying African history.

West, Central and East Africa before European expansion

As in the 18th century, many West African coastal empires exported slaves and raw materials. Up until the 1860s, Great Britain in particular succeeded in largely preventing the Atlantic slave trade overseas through its maritime power. At the same time, European demand for African raw materials such as palm oil increased . In numerous trading centers, this meant that the export of slaves lost much of its importance in favor of the export of raw materials. In response to the changed demand, numerous production facilities were set up in suitable areas that produced for the world market. Since wage labor was not widespread due to the prevailing subsistence economy , slaves were often used in production.

These economic changes, the expansion of the power of the European coastal bases and attacks by the Islamic empires from the north led to political and military conflicts as well as the fall and the establishment of new empires on the West African coast. The power elite of some African empires, whose economic and political power relied on the slave trade, was challenged by emerging producers and trading groups. Furthermore, tensions led to military conflicts between European coastal bases and African empires, such as the Ashanti Empire .

States of the Islamic Renewal Movements in West Africa around 1830

The founding of several empires north of the West African coastal region went back to Islamic renewal movements whose leaders proclaimed what they believed to be a purified Islam. So the followers of subdued Usman dan Fodio in a so-called holy war , the Hausa city-states where the Islamic faith with elements of Sakralkönigtum had mixed. Usman dan Fodio founded the Sokoto Caliphate , which was administered decentrally by 30 emirs . In addition to religious motives, population growth, social differences and the economic changes initiated by the Europeans also influenced the founding of empires. The new empires introduced a unified legal system and encouraged greater writing in Arabic and local languages.

The rulers of Oman , who had become a major trading power in the Indian Ocean in the 18th century , shifted their focus to East Africa at the beginning of the 19th century. There they became the dominant trading power. They built their branch in Zanzibar into the most important international trading center in East Africa. This island became so important to them that they moved their capital to Zanzibar and at the beginning of the second half of the century they founded an empire independent from Oman with the Sultanate of Zanzibar . Voluntary migration from West and South Asia made Zanzibar an ethnic melting pot. Some European trading houses also opened branches. The island became the main exporter of slaves to Asia. Furthermore, slaves were used for the cultivation of another important export good, cloves. Throughout the century Great Britain put constant political and military pressure on Zanzibar so that slave exports were restricted and then abolished.

The numerous trade routes through which the island's influence extended far into mainland East Africa also ended in Zanzibar. The transport of slaves and ivory to Zanzibar played a major role on them. Individual clan chiefs and merchants established new empires or areas of influence in which they controlled the caravan trade and hunted slaves in order to then sell them to Zanzibar. The inner-African trade routes of Zanzibar reached as far as Lake Victoria , where Mutesa I built the Kingdom of Buganda into a central state that profited from trade but also from robbery among its neighbors.

Many rulers of East Africa also secured their military superiority through new combat techniques and weapons. These they took over from peoples from the south who migrated north as part of a chain of expulsions. This chain was triggered by the founding of new empires in Southeast Africa. These emerged in the Mfecane period against the background of population growth and economic and ecological changes. The most influential founder of the empire was Shaka Zulu , whose militarily oriented empire subjugated its neighboring empires with new weapons and combat tactics or caused their populations to flee. In addition, he used the trade relations with the Europeans.

South and North Africa

In South and North Africa, Europeans intervened to a greater extent directly than in other regions of the continent. The European settler colonies, which were otherwise rare in Africa, also had a special status here. As early as the 18th century, predominantly continental European settlers had settled on the South African Cape under the sovereignty of the Dutch East India Company VOC. At the beginning of the century, the British finally took control of the colonies on the southern Cape of Africa. The Cape was of strategic importance for the British as a stopover on the sea route to Asia, which they saw endangered against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the century. The South African 19th century was characterized by clashes between the British, settlers of Dutch-German origin, called Boers , and various African peoples over land and resources. The British established their law, British administrative structures and a liberal policy towards the native African population. This moved thousands of Boers to move inland . There they founded two independent states, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal . In Southeast Africa they clashed with the Zulu Empire and other indigenous empires. These empires emerged at the beginning of the century in the Mfecane period, in which they militarily subjugated and expelled their neighbors.

In the second half of the century, the British gradually expanded their rule in southern Africa. They ended the decades-long clashes between Europeans and the Xhosa people in their favor. They also subjugated the Mfecane period empires. The discovery of diamond, gold and coal deposits sparked conflicts between the British and the Boer republics , which culminated in the Second Boer War between the two parties in 1898 . This ended in 1902 with the dissolution of the Boer republics and complete control of the Cape by the British.

In 1830, the French monarch took a dispute with the Dey of Algiers over outstanding credit debts as an opportunity to conquer the Algerian coast, mainly for domestic political reasons . Subsequent French governments maintained the Algerian policy, with constant clashes with local groups in the decades that followed. One of these groups, under Abd el-Kader , formed a state-like empire in the west and in the Algerian hinterland until 1843. From 1840 onwards, numerous Europeans emigrated to Algeria, which in 1901 made up around 13% of the population. The crackdown on the anti-colonial Mokrani revolt in 1872 was used by the French colonial administration to expropriate the Arab and Berber populations.

Muhammad Ali Pasha

At the beginning of the century, Muhammad Ali Pasha emerged victorious from the power struggles that broke out after the withdrawal of the French occupation of Egypt. He disempowered the various groups, killed many of the leading Mamluk elites and installed a centralized rule tailored to his needs. He then built a strong army with which he subjugated the north of what is now Sudan and fought the Greek independence movement. His expansion into Syria and his declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire displeased the major European powers, which forced him to dissolve his fleet and withdraw from Syria and Palestine.

Muhammad Ali built a new standing army based on western standards and also introduced conscription . To finance them, he built a state-controlled economy that was shielded from the outside by protective tariffs and control of trade. He strengthened the economy by expanding the infrastructure and planting agricultural products for export. His efforts to industrialize Egypt failed, however, due to state dirigism, a lack of raw materials and labor and the abolition of protective tariffs, which was finally enforced by the Europeans.

Muhammad Ali's son and grandson continued his rule and tried to modernize Egypt on the European model. Due to the loan financing of large infrastructure projects, Egypt became increasingly financially dependent on Europe. Eventually the country lost its stake in its most important project, the Suez Canal . Since this canal considerably shortened ship journeys to Asia and thus also to the British crown colony, the British took an uprising against the increasing European influence as an occasion and established a disguised protectorate in Egypt in 1882 . After that, they took full control of the Suez Canal.

Division of Africa among the Europeans

Even before the actual race for Africa , Europeans exerted a wide range of influences on Africa. By stopping the export of slaves, Great Britain in particular was drawn more into intra-African affairs than before. The expansion of trade in raw materials also led Europeans to strengthen their trading bases on the coast. This process intensified in the face of European rivalries. The trading posts often served as the starting point for the race for Africa that began in 1880. In addition to trade and slavery, however, it was not until the middle of the century that the Europeans had a growing, deeper interest in the continent. At this time, research trips by Europeans to the interior of Africa also met with a great public response. Other factors that facilitated colonization included the development of drugs for tropical diseases , the expansion of steam navigation, and the opening of the Suez Canal , which provided easier access to the east coast of Africa.

European colonies in Africa around 1912

From 1881, the European powers France , Great Britain , Germany , Italy , Spain and Portugal began to colonize Africa step by step and in rapid succession. Above all, the French and British military and politicians sought to connect their previous colonies on the continent. In the case of France, the connection between the French colony of Algeria and the colonial territories in Senegal , which had been conquered before 1880, was important to them. Cecil Rhodes wanted a British colonial area from Cape Town to Cairo .

On the one hand, the Europeans conquered existing empires and territories by means of military conquests. The best-known colonial wars include the British wars against the Ashanti , the French wars against the Tukulor Empire and Samory Touré, and the wars of British South Africa against the Matabele and Zulu kingdoms . From the Mahdi uprising against the Egyptian-British occupation of Sudan, the last empire was an Islamic revival movement of this century, the 1898 / 1899 was finally subdued by a British-Egyptian army.

On the other hand, the Europeans concluded trade and protection treaties with native African elites. They hoped to gain trade advantages or support against their opponents, inside or outside their realm or association. Different views on these treaties, the often very violent establishment of the European claim to rule and the European predatory economy led to violent conflicts. The Africans continued to resist until the 20th century. In addition to violence, he knew various means, such as diplomatic initiatives in the mother countries. None of the resistance movements were ultimately successful in the 19th century. In conquering and asserting their rule, the Europeans were clearly inferior to the Africans in terms of personnel, but far superior in terms of weapons. Not infrequently, the European military exercised violence and terror to an extent that contradicted the European norms of warfare of the time.

The initiative of private individuals and the military, who brought territories under their control without consulting their countries of origin, played an important role in colonization. Then they urged their home countries to place these areas under the state protection of the respective country. The Belgian king , who established the Congo as his private colony, was a special case .

In the race for Africa, the competition between European states in their pursuit of world power and prestige was an important motor. The Europeans saw the colonies more as a component of their imperial world power politics . At the Berlin conference of 1884/85, the Europeans reached an agreement on trade issues and a fundamental understanding of the conditions under which they wanted to recognize their colonies. This accelerated the colonization again. The states then settled border disputes in bilateral agreements. At least since the beginning of the Berlin Conference, Africans were excluded from the division of Africa and were no longer accepted as partners.

In reality, however, the Europeans ruled only part of the areas which they had allowed the other Europeans to recognize. In the 19th century, the colonial borders were still so porous that they hardly had the separating effect they had in the 20th century. All European states set up hierarchical colonial administrations, the top levels of which were European and the local levels African. At the local level, the Europeans left the rulers in office who were willing to cooperate with them. Otherwise, they replace them with cooperative rivals. In contrast to earlier traditional legitimations , however, the local rulers had their power exclusively from the colonial rulers. The previous legitimation systems thus lost their importance.

With the introduction of European legal norms and the establishment of a school system, Europeans sought to convey their cultural values. The spread of their language in their colonies was so important to the French that they made it the only official language there. The minority of Africans who attended European schools hoped for social advancement. The schools were mostly run by Christian missionaries. These had set out for various parts of Africa on a private initiative before the 1880s. The new African Christians not infrequently developed their own African interpretation of the Christian faith. The missionaries continued under colonial rule, working together with the colonial power. In some cases they also promoted colonization by soliciting the protection of their homelands for themselves.

The colonial rulers redesigned the economy according to their needs. Depending on their interests and local circumstances, they operated predatory farming that ruthlessly plundered resources, mining of raw materials, plantation farming or monopolized trade with village communities. Numerous Africans were forced to extract raw materials and to work in the plantations. The very little investment in infrastructure was geared entirely towards European sovereign and economic interests.


While at the beginning of this century there was still an approximate equilibrium between the Asian empires and Europe, the latter became the dominant region in Eurasia by the end of the century . The empires of Asia could do little to counter the expansion of the European position of power. In addition to the inability of the Asian governments to adequately meet the social change in their countries, the development of European power was the trigger for a wave of great uprisings in the 1850s and 60s. They had Europe partly as a model, partly as an enemy. The Asian companies also launched a series of modernization initiatives in order to catch up with the West. Japan modernized itself at such a pace that it itself became a great power by 1905 at the latest. In the first half of the century, the old Asian colonial powers, Great Britain, Russia and the Netherlands expanded their influence. In the second half, in which Southeast Asia was almost completely colonized, France was added as a major colonial power. In contrast to Africa, large areas of Asia were not subjected to direct colonial rule until 1900.

West and Central Asia

Throughout the century, the Ottoman Empire lost territories in the Balkans and North Africa. After the Berlin Congress of 1878, it recognized further losses of territory and sovereignty.

At the beginning of the century, the Ottoman Empire ruled, at least formally, the southern Balkans , large parts of Western Asia, and most of North Africa. In the course of the century the empire lost a large part of its national territory and its domestic political independence. In its struggle against the striving for power of the superior European great powers , it benefited from their conflicting interests. They wanted to keep the empire rather than leave it to a rival.

In the Balkans, nationalist movements led Greece, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria to independence from the Ottoman Empire. They were supported primarily by Russia but also by other major European powers. During the wars of independence there were mass murders and expulsions of various ethnic groups. Since none of the new nations was satisfied with the national territory, there were military conflicts between the new nation states from the 1870s.

At the Berlin Congress of 1878, the Ottoman Empire recognized the loss of a large part of its territories in the Balkans. All Ottoman territories in North Africa became a European colony or protectorate. Russia gained territories in the Caucasus . The loss of land in the Balkans and the loss of territory in the Caucasus led to the displacement of large Muslim population groups into the remaining Ottoman Empire.

In this century the great powers made greater use of the special rights for their citizens, surrenders , which they could also extend to groups of subjects of the Sultan. Russia and France in particular saw themselves as protecting the Orthodox and Catholic Christians they protected. Investments in the army, administration and infrastructure of the empire were increasingly financed by European bonds in the second half of the century. The high debt of the Ottoman Empire led to the state bankruptcy of the empire in 1878 and to foreign financial supervision in 1881. The increasing difficulties of the empire led the Europeans to refer to the Ottoman Empire as the Sick Man on the Bosporus .

Throughout the century, the sultans carried out reforms to stabilize and centralize their power. In doing so, they took loans from Europe. The measures initially included a reform of the army based on the European model and the elimination of the formerly powerful Janissary troops. In addition, some provinces were brought back under the control of the sultan. Tax collection was centralized, which was one reason for the large size of the administration. As a symbol of the redesign, the fez replaced the turban as headgear.

Ultimately, the military and economic inferiority to the major European powers led to reform efforts in all areas. With the Tanzimat reforms and their successors, a modern administration was established, especially in the country's large cities, and schools were set up according to Western European standards. With a literacy rate of less than 15 percent, however, education remained extremely unevenly distributed. The law was written down and thus more objective. Some areas of law borrowed from European models. A constitution that regulated the first approaches to parliamentary participation was suspended during the authoritarian rule of Abdülhamid II from the 1870s. Under European pressure, Muslim and non-Muslim subjects were formally equated. Local resistance formed against the influence of the great European powers and the changes in the empire. There were assassination attempts against Western representatives and mass murders of Christians in the Levant.

Persia, that of the Shah of Qajar was ruled dynasty, was under pressure from Britain and Russia, to which it lost some territories at the beginning of the century. The efforts of both great powers to obtain economic concessions to their advantage often achieved their goal at the end of the century. The efforts of the Shahs to catch up with the Europeans were only moderately successful due to domestic political resistance, as local rulers had great power to assert their own interests. During the century a hierarchy of the Shiite clergy developed which claimed sole religious authority and which is still valid today in the predominantly Shiite country.

The Russian Empire in Central Asia around 1900

Central Asian politics was heavily influenced by the neighboring great powers China, Russia and British India. On the one hand, they justified their conquests as measures to secure borders and, on the other hand, with trade interests. Their power-political struggles over the region were simply referred to as the Great Game . In the course of the century, Russia initially managed to fully integrate all Kazakh groups that had previously been under Russian protectorate into its sphere of influence. This was followed by the incorporation of the Kyrgyz .

The three Uzbek khanates Khiva , Bukhara and Kokand expanded under independent dynasties at the beginning of the century, but had to submit to Russia at the turn of the century. The final target of Russian expansion became the Turkmen . The British took control of the areas north of their Indian colony. But they failed because of the subjugation of today's Afghanistan , which was to serve as a buffer against the Russians. The Kabul rulers remained autonomous. After Yakub Beg for a revolt of the Dungan had built on former Chinese territory in 1865 a state, Russia and Britain tried to beat it makes political capital. But ten years later the Chinese managed to recapture the lost territory.

With Russian rule, which was indirect in Bukhara and Khiva, the economy and society of Central Asia changed. The Russians expanded the infrastructure, administration and education. With the abolition of serfdom in Russia, numerous Russian settlers poured into the region. This settlement pushed the nomads back and the sedentary population increased. However, the points of contact between long-time residents and newcomers remained small. The Russians supplemented the traditionally based economy with a massive cultivation of cotton and severely restricted the previously important slave trade.

South asia

India in the late 18th and 19th centuries

At the beginning of the century, the British East India Company was the most powerful group in South Asia, alongside the Confederation of Marathas . In addition to large territories of their own, numerous Indian principalities were dependent on the company. At the beginning of the century, the British conquered the Confederation of Marathas and later other areas on the edge of Southeast Asia, including Ceylons . In numerous contractually dependent principalities, the British noted the lack of a legitimate successor to the ruler or his incapacity. They then brought these principalities under their direct control according to their Doctrine of Lapse .

This practice of annexation, economic exploitation by the colonial rulers and the effects of their social measures led to an uprising. Sections of the Indian population and elite as well as a section of the Indian colonial soldiers participated in numerous areas throughout South Asia. The British and their Indian allies put down this sepoy uprising with great effort and great violence. The British took the uprising as an opportunity to depose the Grand Mughal , who has only formally ruled South Asia since the last century , and to establish the English kings as emperors of India . Indirect rule over the British East India Company was replaced by direct colonial rule from Great Britain. In the second half of the century, Indian national movements began to emerge, but they were regional rather than the entire subcontinent.

Agriculture in India was redesigned under the British to the large-scale cultivation of crops for the world market, so that the share of cultivated food for the local population fell sharply. In the second half of the century, tea, which until now mainly came to China, was grown on a large scale. The high taxation forced many farmers to sell their land and created large numbers of landless people. Some of these migrated to the emerging cities. Over the course of the century, few cities like Bombay and Calcutta grew very rapidly, while many classic Indian cities lost population and importance. A limited number of industrial companies emerged almost exclusively in the growing cities. Harsh working conditions in industry and agriculture caused many deaths and a lot of misery among the workers.

India's population growth was not only absorbed by the growing cities, but many Indians emigrated to Ceylon, the Caribbean and southern Africa as temporary workers . Many of them returned to India after their contracts expired.

The British expanded the infrastructure there, for example by building railways. Because this was based only on the export needs of the British, the expansion did not lead to an economic upturn along the route network. The upper administration of British India was almost entirely in the hands of the British. They gave their colony on the subcontinent their own laws. Numerous Indians worked in the courts as judges and lawyers who received British training.


China in 1854. The Taiping insurgent areas are marked in red.

The Chinese Empire was a multi-ethnic empire ruled by the Manchurian Qing Dynasty . The empire, whose territory, economy, and population had grown rapidly in the previous century, faced challenges posed by that growth in the early 19th century. For one, the population grew much faster than the arable land. This led to a reduction in the arable land per peasant family and to uprisings by unemployed peasant sons with no prospects. On the other hand, the state coffers were empty due to the great wars. The tax hikes that they were supposed to replenish put a strain on the population. A significant part of the revenue was embezzled by corruption networks in the state bureaucracy. The state apparatus, which was hampered by client networks, was unable to respond adequately to the challenges and lost the trust of the citizens. These difficulties contributed to China's failure to protect its interests in the conflict with the British in the First Opium War .

The British East India Company has been buying an increasing amount of tea and silk from China since the previous century. She had to pay for this in silver, as she could not sell any goods to the Empire via the strictly regulated official trade routes. With the help of licensed European merchants, however, it smuggled steadily increasing amounts of opium into China. Previously, it had obtained a monopoly on the opium trade in British-ruled India.

The Chinese
junks were inferior to the British paddle steamer Nemesis in the First Opium War.

When it lost its monopoly around the 1820s, independent British and American merchants took over much of the business and increased the quantities exported to China many times over. Importing opium turned the Chinese trade balance from a large surplus to a large deficit. The associated outflow of silver had a negative impact on the Chinese economy, especially for smallholders. The Chinese emperor then initiated measures to combat drugs, which also led to the destruction of large stocks of opium for British merchants. This took Great Britain in 1840 as an opportunity to start the First Opium War, which China lost due to the superiority of British weapons technology.

With the victory, Great Britain was able to push through the opening of the Chinese markets, which the Chinese Empire had previously denied it. It also received Hong Kong and legal privileges for its compatriots in China. The peace treaty concluded with Great Britain was the first of numerous so-called unequal treaties that the empire concluded with European states, the USA and Japan, which were disadvantageous for China . The import of opium then multiplied until it was replaced by domestic production in the 1880s and 90s. At that time, three to five percent of the Chinese population were addicted to opium.

Hong Xiuquan was the initiator of the Taiping Uprising.

From the 1840s onwards, internal and external pressures on China increased steadily. Natural disasters also increased the existing challenges. Domestic political problems prepared the ground for the Taiping uprising , which far surpassed all the numerous previous local uprisings in its dimensions. From 1851 to 1864 the followers of the mystic Hong Xiuquan established a large, independent empire in southeast China. He promised his followers a way out of poverty, oppression and hopelessness. The uprising could only be put down by troops raised by the provinces. Central's ineptitude severely weakened its authority. With an estimated 20 million dead during the uprising and when it was suppressed, it was by far the most costly armed conflict of the 19th century.

Simultaneously with the uprising, the empire had to cope with its defeat in the Second Opium War with several European states, which destroyed the summer palaces of the emperor as a sign of particular humiliation . In the course of the war, China also lost large areas to Russia. Both the imperial family and the provincial governors reacted to these defeats with a self-strengthening program. They tried to acquire European technology and produce it themselves using the methods of industrialization. They also took over aspects of European institutions such as school education and universities. The self-strengthening initiatives provided the provincial governors with a strong economic base and more independence. However, the initiatives lacked national coordination, and there was no adequate legal framework. The too close connection between industry and the state prevented many business decisions.

The problems of self-empowerment became apparent in the military defeat against Japan in 1895. Japan had also started catching up to the European level of technology in the 1860s, but was far more successful. On the one hand, this defeat gave Japan and the Europeans the opportunity to become economically active outside the economic zones in China. China took out foreign loans to pay reparations claims. The necessary securities and special rights, which it had to grant the lenders, made it dependent on the West. On the other hand, this defeat triggered a great crisis of meaning in the Chinese leadership.

The pressure to reform, which the urban elites in particular felt, drove them to study abroad, mainly to Japan. An urban elite studied numerous Western textbooks translated into Chinese, discussed the ideas contained therein, and tried to understand Western culture. The power of foreigners and other failed attempts at reform triggered the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century.

The economic and political developments of the 19th century caused Chinese society to change. On the one hand, the old hierarchies of social classes broke up. The group of traders rose sharply in importance and reputation, while the formerly leading scholarly class lost importance. Economic and technical knowledge replaced Confucian education as an educational goal. At the end of the century, the Chinese began to see themselves as a nation.

Korea and Japan

With the Japanese-Korean friendship treaty, Japan forced the opening of Korea.

Korea was ruled by kings who were unable to assert themselves against the power of the Yangban clans, which made up the upper class. It was culturally oriented towards China. In 1876 , Japan enforced the opening of Korea and trade privileges in an unequal treaty. This was followed by similar treaties with the United States and various European countries in the 1880s. Planned extensive reforms failed because the reformers wanted to enforce them by force against conservative resistance.

The farmers felt the disadvantages of the country's economic opening up. Their Donghak uprising of 1885 was put down with the help of Chinese and Japanese troops who subsequently stayed in the country. Their rivalry led to the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894/1895 , which Japan won and thus removed Korea from the Chinese sphere of influence. In the last few years of the century, numerous reforms were carried out that introduced various European standards such as the European calendar, the abolition of upper class privileges and the abolition of slavery in Korea. At the same time, the power struggle of China, Russia and Japan had a strong influence on Korean domestic politics.

Christian missionaries in Korea have succeeded more than in any East Asian country. Despite persecution, they were able to convert many followers to the Roman Catholic and later to the Protestant faith. They set up charities such as hospitals, which contributed to their success.

The transformation of Japan during the Meiji period was evident in the western attire of many ministers.

At the beginning of the century, Japan was a feudal country with a Shogun at its head. In the first decades of the century the problems of the shogunate escalated in several problem areas. The shoguns could no longer find an adequate solution for natural disasters, counterfeiting and inflation as well as increasing tax burdens and the resulting peasant uprisings. In 1853 , Japan was no longer able to withstand the increasing pressure from Europeans and the United States to open up the hitherto highly isolated country to trade . After the USA, several European nations were also able to open up the country to trade.

In 1868, a group of young aristocrats from southeastern Japan overthrew what they believed to be the incapable Shogun and upgraded the position of the previously powerless Tenno as head of Japan. On behalf of the Tennō, a small group of representatives of the feudal aristocracy launched a fundamental restructuring program of Japan's economy and society called the Meiji Restoration . The aim was to turn Japan into a nation that was militarily and economically equal to the leading world powers and that would retain its independence. To do this, they replaced the old feudal system with a strongly centralized nation-state. Japan got a constitution and a modern, well-organized bureaucracy. The introduced parliament, however, had little power.

Free choice of occupation, greater social permeability, introduction of a national currency system, establishment of the Tokyo stock exchange and high investments in infrastructure led to strong economic growth and the industrialization of Japan. The state acted itself as an entrepreneur and cooperated closely with the economy, especially with some very large family businesses. The Japanese made up the knowledge gap by employing foreign experts, sending Japanese abroad to study and introducing a comprehensive school system. The farmers in particular bore the costs of this upswing through high taxes. The Japanese army, based on general conscription, was so strong by the end of the century that it itself began to expand.

South East Asia

Southeast Asia in the 19th century

In the 19th century, Southeast Asia changed from a region of mostly autonomous empires to a part of the world whose countries, with the exception of Thailand, became a European colony or a protectorate. The involvement in maritime trade increased significantly. Britain came into conflict with Burma, neighboring British India , which the British conquered in three consecutive wars because of their superior military technique and tactics and the weakness of the royal family. The Malay Peninsula also came under their control. Singapore , which was at the tip of the peninsula, was developed into the most important port in Southeast Asia due to its good location.

After the dissolution of the Dutch East India Company VOC and a brief British interlude, the Kingdom of the United Netherlands took over the colonies of insular Southeast Asia and then expanded its colonial holdings there . The other old colonial power, Spain, was able to hold the Philippines until the turn of the 20th century, but had to reconnect it to Spain after the loss of the South American colonies. In the last few years of the century, the Philippines gained brief independence. In the second half of the century, the French conquered Cambodia and Vietnam .

With its European dominance, Southeast Asia became much more closely involved in world trade than in previous centuries. The colonial rulers encouraged the expansion of agriculture by cultivating new areas or by making existing agriculture more effective with plantations . At the end of the century in particular, the export of rubber gained in importance. Steam shipping required sea ports to adapt, with some ports like Singapore benefiting while others lagging. Many migrants from India and even more from China worked in Southeast Asia, many of them returning to their homeland after a few years. Many Chinese worked as cheap labor in poor conditions. Furthermore, numerous Chinese entrepreneurs occupied niches that the colonial powers and the local population left open, thus forming a hinge function between the colonial rulers and the local population.

In Thailand the king established a centralized state, for the organization of which he borrowed from Western states. He also modernized his army according to European standards. The perception of the British and French that Thailand could serve as a buffer state between their colonial empires contributed to Thai independence.

America and Oceania

The American double continent gradually broke away from Europe. In Latin America emerged at the beginning of the century independent states. The United States of America, which had been independent since the previous century, expanded its territory considerably, became one of the leading industrial nations in the world and began its own colonial policy at the turn of the century. Despite their independence, the economic and cultural ties between the American continents and Europe remained very close. Canada , Australia and New Zealand were still part of the British Empire from 1801 to 1900 . Here, the immigrant Europeans soon formed the majority of the population who were given far-reaching domestic political self-government rights from the British in the second half of the century.

North America

Over the century, the United States of America expanded from the east coast to the west coast of North America.

In the course of the 19th century, the United States of America rose from a new state that was slowly beginning to stabilize into a great power. The first half of the century was characterized by the expansion of the national territory from the east coast of North America to its west coast. First, they doubled their national territory east of the Mississippi by buying their rights to North American territory from France and Spain . Most of the remaining territories they won in the course of the American-Mexican War . With the purchase of Alaska in 1867 and the acquisition of Hawaii , the United States was roughly the same size as it is today.

Indian tribes lived on large parts of the old and newly acquired national territory and considered the land to be their ancestral territory. With increasing development of the country from the 1830s onwards, the Americans switched to the systematic, violent expulsion of Indian tribes from their ancestral lands. The wave of displacement began on the east coast and gradually continued to the west.

As a result of the increasing flow of immigrants, the cities in the northeast of the country quickly grew into metropolises. There was an increasing gap between the states of the north , which were characterized by free agriculture and the beginning of industrialization, and the states of the south . These were much less populated than the north. Cotton plantations , on which slaves of African origin worked, shaped the economy of the south. In most of the northern states, slavery was illegal or of no economic importance.

With the increase in the number of states in the West, in which the use of slaves in the majority did not bring any great economic advantage, the north-south balance from the early days of the USA was out of balance. Fundamentally different constitutional ideas about property rights between North and South were charged with increasing demands for a US-wide abolition of slavery, as southerners viewed slaves as property. The differences escalated into the American Civil War , which the north won in 1865 and which ended with the abolition of slavery in the south. However, that did not stop the severe discrimination against African Americans .

The civil war was followed by strong economic growth and accelerated industrialization. The American colonization of the Midwest began as early as during the Civil War. This was promoted both directly through the incentives of the Homestead Act and indirectly through the construction of the railway, which is also state-subsidized. Nomadic indigenous tribes, who had populated the country for centuries, resisted expansion. The tribes lost these often violent clashes and were pushed into reservations .

A railway line was laid across the United States from each of the west and east coasts. They met in 1869.

American economic growth after the Civil War was based on a sharp increase in population due to high birth rates and millions of European immigrants . The massive expansion of agricultural land, especially in the Midwest, as well as the rapid mechanization of agriculture compared to the rest of the world, made it possible to feed the rapidly growing population.

The population growth went hand in hand with a high pool of labor. In addition to high European investments and a large, closed domestic market, this contributed to rapid industrialization, so that the United States overtook the European countries in economic power at the end of the century. This economic growth has been accompanied by a strong unequal distribution of wealth. A few multimillionaires, who mostly earned their wealth through monopoly profits , faced millions of workers without social security.

At the end of the century, United States foreign policy became increasingly confident. The Monroe Doctrine stated that the United States stayed out of the world's conflicts, but viewed the American continents as its sphere of influence. From this point on, the Latin American countries began to feel the effects of this doctrine more and more. After winning the Spanish-American War in 1898, the former colony of the USA became a colonial power in the Caribbean.

Latin America

Latin America on the way to independence - red: royalist troops, (dark) blue: areas under the control of the separatists / Greater Colombia

At the beginning of the century, numerous areas of Latin America gained independence from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial powers. In the course of the century, the political map of the continent changed fundamentally to come close to the current level. The independence movements were set in motion by Napoleon's occupation of the Iberian Peninsula from 1808. The Portuguese royal family fled from Napoleon to Brazil, on their return Brazil initially achieved equal status in the Portuguese kingdom. After differences with the mother country, the Brazilian elites declared their country an independent empire in the form of a constitutional monarchy in 1822 , which was replaced by a republic in 1889.

The deposition of the monarchy in Spain by Napoleon took the upper classes of most Spanish colonies as an opportunity to declare their autonomy between 1810 and 1816. However, due to the disagreement of the elites and the low involvement of the non-privileged majority, only Argentina and Paraguay achieved their independence in the first step. In the other countries, Spain succeeded in suppressing the uprisings militarily. But Spain, weakened by internal political upheavals and financial problems, finally had to give in to the independence of its other Latin American mainland colonies in the 1820s. In the north-west of South America in particular, the path from Spanish colonies to independent states was associated with armed conflicts.

After independence, conflicts within and between the new states continued. For one thing, some regions with armed uprisings, led by Caudillos , called for more autonomy. In some cases this led to more rights than a federal state , in other cases these areas gained full state independence, such as Peru. On the other hand, the new states waged border wars over economically lucrative regions, such as the saltpeter war between Chile, Bolivia and Peru. In order to control the south of the state territories they claimed, Chile and Argentina waged wars against indigenous peoples in the 1860s to 80s . The majority of them perished during these wars.

A large number of the new states gave themselves constitutions that were influenced by the principles of political representation, the separation of powers, and human and civil rights. Many constitutions were short lived and were often replaced by new constitutions. In constitutional practice, the Creole elites ensured that the strong social stratification persisted. The elections were often neither free nor fair and the separation of powers was severely unbalanced. For a long time, slaves were excluded from basic human rights. In the areas where slavery played a major role, it persisted long after independence, in Brazil until 1888.

In the second half of the century, the states of southern South America in particular encouraged the immigration of Europeans. Even if migration was nowhere near the proportions of the United States and Southeast Asia, the influx of Central and Eastern Europeans created new problems in previously complex societies. The port cities, which were growing rapidly due to the migrants, had to create living space for the newcomers and contain epidemics .

The further development of Latin America, which comprised 16 independent states at the end of the century, was burdened by debts that had been taken out for the wars of the early years. As a way out of stagnation, the Latin Americans concentrated mainly on agriculture and the export of agricultural goods, tropical products and raw materials primarily to Europe. The governments focused their economic development on the export economy, which benefited from European economic growth. On the other hand, this monoculture-based economy became fragile. The economy remained dependent on Europe, but moved from Spain to Great Britain, later Germany and France also played important roles. Towards the end of the century, the influence of the United States became increasingly stronger, particularly in northern Latin America.

Australia and Oceania

The export of sheep wool was one of the most important industries in Australia

At the beginning of the century, Australia was still predominantly populated by different groups of Aborigines . Only a few coastal areas have been a British prisoner colony. From the 1820s, the British presence expanded to all of Australia. The existing colony gradually transformed into a settler colony and more British settler colonies emerged on the south and west coast of Australia. Several European expeditions explored the coasts and the interior of the continent. The areas used for agriculture and, above all, for pasture farming extended from the coasts into the interior of the country. The Australian natives were killed in battles with settlers, succumbed to diseases brought in by Europeans, were pushed inland or marginalized.

The export of sheep's wool for the increasingly booming British textile industry was the basis of an economic boom in Australia, which attracted more migrants from Europe. The discovery of gold deposits triggered an additional immigration boom from England, Ireland, the rest of Europe and, to a lesser extent, America and China. The struggle of the new prospectors for equal treatment by the British colonial authorities was followed by an increasing struggle of many Australians for participation. At the end of the century, the demand for the whole of Australia to be united into a federation became increasingly popular. While the struggle for participation was already successful in the 19th century, the federation was established in 1901.

See also

Portal: History of the 19th Century  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of History of the 19th Century


Web links

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supporting documents

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