Brief History of Europe/Late modern period

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The Late modern period was circa 1750–1945, or 1800–1945. It generally includes the "long nineteenth century" (1789–1914).

States and territories of the late modern period[edit]

Europe in 1815

In 1815 states included:

Northern Europe
Included Sweden–Norway (1814–1905) and Denmark. With the The Acts of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland would form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922); this would later became United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Western and Central Europe
Included France and Switzerland. The German Confederation included some of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) covered the present-day Netherlands and Belgium. The Belgian Revolution (1830–1831) resulted in Belgium separating from the Netherlands, mainly on the grounds of religion, as Belgium was mainly Catholic, and the Dutch were mainly Protestant.
Eastern Europe
Included the Russian Empire and Congress Poland; Congress Poland became a puppet state of Russia, although the Polish Free City of Cracow (1815–1846) was autonomous until annexed by the Austrians. The Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro (1516–1852) would later became the Principality of Montenegro. The Ottoman Empire included the semi-autonomous Principality of Serbia (1815–1882). The Danubian Principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia) were Ottoman vassals which would later become the United Principalities (1859–1881), later renamed to Romania; they eventually, with Transylvania, formed the basis for the Kingdom of Romania (1881–1947). With the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832), Greece would obtain independence from the Ottomans as the Kingdom of Greece (1832–1924).
Iberian Peninsula
Included Spain and Portugal.
Italian Peninsula
Included the kingdoms of Sicily and Naples. Northern Italy included the Kingdom of Sardinia (with Piedmont, Nice, Savoy, Genoa), the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia (Austrian), the Papal States, and the duchies of Lucca, Massa and Carrara, Modena and Reggio, and Parma; and San Marino.

Age of Revolution and late eighteenth century[edit]

North America in 1750
George Washington

Age of Revolution (1774–1848): saw a rise of revolutionary activities, especially away from absolute monarchy and towards constitutional republics. The Atlantic Revolutions was a revolutionary wave within the Atlantic World; it included the American Revolution (1765–1783); the French Revolution (1789–1799); the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), a large slave rebellion followed by a massacre of the French (1804); the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which would contribute to the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and the Spanish American wars of independence (1808–1833). Other revolutionary waves included the Revolutions of 1820 and the Revolutions of 1830. The Revolutions of 1848, with widespread revolt across Europe, contributed to the French Revolution of 1848, and the First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849). The Ottoman Empire would also experience unrest in this period, with the Serbian Revolution (1804–1835) and the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832).

Seven Years' War (1756–1763): the conflict split Europe into two coalitions: (i) Kingdom of Great Britain coalition, including the German states of Prussia and Hanover, and Portugal; (ii) Kingdom of France coalition, including the Habsburg/Austrian Monarchy, Russian Empire, Bourbon Spain, and Sweden. Major European theaters included: Silesia, Pomeranian War (Sweden and Prussia), and the Spanish invasion of Portugal (1762). Other European theaters included: Bohemia and Moravia; Westphalia, Hesse, and Lower Saxony; Upper Saxony; Brandenburg; and East Prussia. There was also theaters in North America, West Indies, West Africa, India, and Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul. It resulted in a Anglo-Prussian coalition victory, although there was little change in European territories. There were transfers of colonial possessions, including in North America, and India (the Northern Circars ceded to Great Britain). After the Anglo–Spanish War (1762–1763), Spain ceded Florida to Britain in exchange for return of Havana.

French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a North American theater of the Seven Years' War, although warfare was extended during the period 1688 and 1763. Principally it was British America against New France and its Indian allies. It ended with Louis XV ceding New France (a North American territory roughly west of the Thirteen Colonies) to Spain and Great Britain after France's defeat. Britain received Canada, Acadia, and parts of Louisiana, with Spain gaining the larger portion of Louisiana. French possessions in North America were reduced to the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. In 1800 Spain returned its portion of Louisiana to France, but Napoleon Bonaparte in turn sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

American Revolution (1765–1783): resulted in the Kingdom of Great Britain losing possession of the United States of America (USA), called the Thirteen Colonies until the Declaration of Independence of the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It included the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). In 1765 the First Congress of the American Colonies met in response to taxation introduced by the Stamp Act. The Boston Tea Party (1773) was an act of symbolic defiance against the tax on tea. In 1774, the First Continental Congress attempted to create at a separatist government. War erupted in 1775, with the Patriots (and later their French, Spanish, and Dutch allies) against the British and Loyalists (also known as Tories). In 1783 the British capitulated, and signed the Treaty of Paris. George Washington was the first President of the United States (1789–1797), the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Partitions of Poland (1772–1795): in a series of partitions, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned to the Habsburg/Austrian Monarchy, Kingdom of Prussia, and Russian Empire. Three partitions took place in 1772, 1793, and 1795. In 1807, Napoleon resurrected Poland when he set up the Duchy of Warsaw.

French Revolution and French Revolutionary Wars[edit]

Storming of the Bastille (1789)
Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803

The French Revolution (1789–1799) was a period of French history that resulted in the abolition of the monarchy, the establishment of a republic based on secular democracy and liberalism, and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. It began with the formation of the National Assembly (1789) from the Third Estate of the Estates-General; it was later replaced by the National Constituent Assembly (1789–1791). The Storming of the Bastille (a state prison) commenced on 14th July 1789. Louis XVI's prestige was damaged by his flight to Varennes and subsequent capture (June 1791). The National Legislative Assembly followed the National Constituent Assembly as legislative body between October 1791 and September 1792, with government on the basis of a constitutional monarchy.

French First Republic (1792–1804) was declared on 21 September 1792 by the National Convention (1792–1795), which replaced the National Legislative Assembly as legislative body. This ended the reign of Louis XVI, who was then executed in January 1793. The Committee of Public Safety (1793–1795), first chaired by Georges Danton, held de facto executive from April 1793, and were responsible for the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), with resulted in thousands of executions, including prominent Girondins in October 1793. The Reign of Terror ended with the July 1794 execution of committee member Maximilien Robespierre, a member of the Montagnards, a Jacobin faction.

The French Directory (1795–1799) in November 1795 became the new executive elected by the legislature, with the Committee of Public Safety and the National Convention soon abolished. The French Consulate (1799–1804) was the period of the French First Republic after Napoleon Bonaparte seized control on 10 November 1799, and became First Consul, ending the French Revolution era and beginning the Napoleonic Era.

French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802): were wars of French Republic against Great Britain, Austria and others, sparked by the overthrow of Louis XVI. They included the War of the First Coalition (1792–1797) and War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802), as well as numerous other conflicts of the period. Napoleon was the most successful general for France, and conquered much of Italy and made the Austrians sue for peace. The French Revolutionary Wars temporarily ended with the Treaty of Amiens 1802, but would flare up in 1803 with the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleonic Era and aftermath[edit]

Europe in 1812, before the French invasion of Russia
Congress of Vienna
1st Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley)

Napoleonic Era (1799–1815): France was led by Napoléon Bonaparte, as First Consul (1799–1804) of the French First Republic (1792–1804); and then as Emperor of the First French Empire (1804–1814, 1815). At its peak in 1812, the empire was an enlarged France, including the Low Countries and some of Italy; with client states that included the Confederation of the Rhine; Switzerland; the kingdoms of Italy and Naples; the Duchy of Warsaw; Spain.

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of conflicts between Napoleon's France its allies and client-states, against the Coalition Forces of the Napoleonic Wars (the third through to the seventh). They began with the United Kingdom declaring war on France in May 1803. Co-belligerents with the UK included Holy Roman Empire (pre-1806), Austria (from 1804), Prussia, and Russia, among others; the French were allied with their client states. The wars were a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802), with the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802) being part of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Era.

Major battles and aspects of the Napoleonic Wars included the following:

  • War of the Third Coalition (1803–1806). The Franco-Spanish navy was defeated by the British Navy (commanded by Horatio Nelson) at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), off Cape Trafalgar, Spain; this prevented a French invasion of England. But the French were victorious over the Russian-Austrian army at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) in Austrian Moravia. The Confederation of the Rhine was created, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire followed (1806).
  • War of the Fourth Coalition (1806–1807). The French had victories over the Prussia and Saxony at the Battle of Jena–Auerstedt (1806) in Germany; and the Russians at the Battle of Friedland (1807) in Prussia. This created an uneasy truce, with the Napoleon receiving many Prussian lands; these contributed to the formation of the Kingdom of Westphalia and Duchy of Warsaw,
  • French Invasion of Portugal (1807), and the subsequent overthrow of the Spanish Bourbons (1808) and occupation of Spain and Portugal. The Peninsular War (1808–1814) eventually resulted in the expulsion of the French from Spain and Portugal. The Battle of Vitoria (1813) in Spain was a decisive victory for the British, who were led by the Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley).
  • War of the Fifth Coalition (1809), with a French victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram (1809) in Austria. The French imposed harsh terms on the Austrians.
  • French invasion of Russia (1812), and the resulting catastrophe for the French; the French Grande Armée of circa 685,000 troops had losses of circa 500,000; the Russians lost a similar amount. It included the major but indecisive Battle of Borodino (1812) in Russia.
  • War of the Sixth Coalition (1812–1814), with French defeat by coalition forces at the Battle of Leipzig (1813) in Saxony; but the French had success in the Six Days' Campaign (1814) in northeastern France. The Battle of Paris (1814) ended the war in favor of the coalition.
  • Hostilities temporarily ended with the Bourbon Restoration (1814–1815), the first restoration of the Kingdom of France under Louis XVIII. Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and was temporarily exiled to the island of Elba (1814–1815).
  • The Hundred Days, or War of the Seventh Coalition (1815), was the time from Napoleon's return from Elba to the second restoration of the French monarchy, a period of 111 days. Napoleon's was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) in present day Belgium; this was by an Anglo-allied army (commanded by the Duke of Wellington), and a Prussian army (commanded by Field Marshal Blücher). The French had previously beaten the Prussians at the Battle of Ligny two days earlier. Napoleon was then permanently exiled to St. Helena.

The Napoleonic Wars ended with the Bourbon Restoration (1815–1830), the second restoration of the Kingdom of France under Louis XVIII, and then later Bourbon monarchs. The Bourbons were overthrown in 1830, but the French monarchy survived until the French Second Republic (1848–1852).

Other wars of the Napoleonic Era included the following (some of which may be also included in the Napoleonic Wars): Anglo-Spanish War (1796–1808); English Wars (of the UK and Sweden against Denmark-Norway, 1801–1814); Russo-Persian War (1804–13); Franco-Swedish War (1805–1810 which included the Finnish War of 1808–1809); Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812); Anglo-Turkish War (1807–1809); Anglo-Russian War (1807–1812); Anglo-Swedish War (1810–1812); War of 1812 (between the United States and the United Kingdom, 1812–1815); Swedish-Norwegian War (1814). The Latin American wars of independence, the wars for independence of countries in Latin America mainly from the Spanish, were greatly influenced by the Napoleonic Wars.

Congress of Vienna (Final Act 1815): ended the Napoleonic Era. Austrian Empire gains included Lombardy–Venetia (1815–1866), Tyrol and Salzburg. Prussia gained parts of: Saxony, Duchy of Warsaw, Danzig, and the Rhineland/Westphalia. Congress Poland (1815−1867) formed, which later became part of Russian Empire (1867−1915). United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) was formed (now the Low Countries). Russia annexed Finland from Sweden; Norway was taken from Denmark and given to Sweden. Many other territorial changes occurred.

Concert of Europe (1815): also known as the Congress System or the Vienna System, it was a system of dispute resolution founded by the Quadruple Alliance (Austria, Prussia, Russia, and the UK) that defeated Napoleon. The Quadruple Alliance, minus the UK, also formed the Holy Alliance that same year. The principles were that no important change take place without the consent of these Great Powers, and that a the balance of power be maintained.

Post-Napoleonic imperialism (1815–1914)[edit]

British Empire at its territorial peak in 1921
Queen Victoria in 1882
Scramble for Africa

Pax Britannica (1815–1914): was a period of relative peace between the five great powers of the period: the Austrian Empire, France, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Other powers had lessened influence, such as Spain, Portugal, and Sweden. The United Kingdom in particular had a position of hegemony (that is, leadership and dominance) through its British Empire and Royal Navy. The Royal Navy had surpassed the Dutch Navy and the French Navy to "rule the waves".

Britain's imperial century (1815–1914) was a time of unprecedented expansion of the British Empire, particularly in the Indian subcontinent as the British Raj (1858–1947), now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It also included colonization on the African continent, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Arabia, Burma (now Myanmar), Malaya (now Malaysia), and British New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea), and some islands. Slavery was abolished within the British Empire in 1833 under William IV. Queen Victoria, who reigned 1837–1901, ruled over the Victorian era of the United Kingdom, characterized by great national confidence in empire and industry. The rivalry between Britain and Russia for Asia in this period became known as the Great Game (1830–1895).

Most New World possessions of Spain were lost during the Spanish American wars of independence (1808–1833), partly a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Simón Bolívar led the secession of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from Spain. The War of Independence of Brazil (1822–1825) resulted in Brazil becoming independent of Portugal. After these wars, most mainland European colonies in the Americas were lost; colonies that continued included (British) Canada, Russian America (now Alaska), French Guiana, (Dutch) Suriname, (British) Guyana, and British Honduras (now Belize). Caribbean colonies were slower to gain independence: these included the French West Indies, the British West Indies, the Danish West Indies, the Netherlands Antilles (Dutch West Indies), and the Spanish West Indies (including Cuba).

Scramble for Africa: resulted in the formation of new colonial empires mostly centered on Africa, including the Italian (1869–1960), German (1884–1918), and Belgian (1885–1962) empires. The British, French, Portuguese and Spanish were also active in Africa. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was formally under European control. Between 1881 and 1914 the majority of Africa was colonised, with only with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Liberia remaining independent in 1914. In 1936 Ethiopia fell to the Italians, and only Liberia remained independent. Gradually, decolonisation resulted in the loss of these colonies by 1975, accelerated by the devastation of World War II.

Other aspects included:

  • The Dutch East Indies (1816–1949) followed on from the possessions of the defunct Dutch East India Company; the territories would form the basis for present-day Indonesia.
  • The Philippines continued as a colony of the Spanish Empire, ending with the Philippine Revolution in 1898. Colonization by the United States was confirmed by their victory in the Philippine–American War (1899–1902).
  • French colonialism would continue, and would include French Indochina (now Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam), French Madagascar, and French Polynesia; and African colonization would become extensive.
  • Empire of Japan (1868–1947): from 1894, Japan built an extensive empire that included Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of northern China. Japan fought and defeated Russia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) for Manchuria and Korea.
  • USA imperialism included the Commonwealth of Liberia (1821–1847), Philippine Islands (1898–1942), and North American and Oceanic possessions.

Decline of the Ottoman Empire pre-World War I: the “sick man of Europe” was in decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries. What would happen was called the Eastern Question. It led to independent European countries, such as Greece (and Crete and Cyprus), Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. Further afield, independence was achieved in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the Yemen. Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922) was the general disintegration of the empire, particularly as a result of World War I. Genocide in Anatolia became prevalent during the war; 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Armenian Genocide (1914–1923), and there was also genocide of Greek and Assyrian minorities.

Post-Napoleonic Europe (1815–1914)[edit]

French Revolution of 1848 (Battle At Soufflot Barricades, 1848)

France after Napoleon: the first restored king was Louis XVIII (who reigned 1814–1815 and 1815–1824). Subsequent French regimes and major rebellions included:

  • July Revolution (1830): the Bourbon King Charles X (1824–1830) was replaced by the Orléans King Louis Philippe I (1830–1848) (the "July Monarchy").
  • June Rebellion (1832): which was an unsuccessful Paris uprising immortalised in Les Misérables.
  • French Second Republic (1848–1852): after the French Revolution of 1848, with the President Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte.
  • Second French Empire (1852–1870): after the French coup d'état of 1851, with Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte ruling as Emperor Napoleon III.
  • French Third Republic (1870–1940): after the collapse of the regime of Napoleon III, during defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). The Paris Commune (1871) was bloodily suppressed. The first government was the Government of National Defense.
  • World War II: in 1940 France separated into: (i) Vichy France (French State "Free Zone"); and (ii) German military-occupied French State in the north. Free France was a government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle.
  • Post-World War II: after liberation of continental France, the Provisional Government of the French Republic (1944–1946) was followed by the French Fourth Republic (1946–1958). After the Algerian crisis of 1958, the French Fifth Republic was established (1958 to the present day).

Revolutions of 1848: across much of Europe (1848–1849), with numerous revolutions and periods of unrest. In France it contributed to the formation of the French Second Republic (1848–1851). In Hungary, the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 would eventually give rise to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867), which gave birth to Austria-Hungary. In Italy, temporary independence in Sicily was created, followed soon after by the First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849). In the Danish Duchy of Schleswig, unrest contributed to the the First Schleswig War (1848–1852) against the Germans, which ended with a Danish victory; but in the Second Schleswig War (1864), Schleswig-Holstein would be lost to the Germans. There were numerous other events; 1848 was also the year of the publication of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Crimean War (1853–1856): the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. Russia was expanding into the Danubian Principalities, then vassals of the Ottoman Empire. Also involved the rights of Christians (Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox) at Holy Land sites, then under the Ottoman Empire. Fighting took part on the Crimean peninsula and around the Black Sea.


Risorgimento (Italian unification) animated map

The Risorgimento, or Italian unification, occurred between 1815 and 1871. After the Congress of Vienna (1815), there were many changes in the Italian makeup. The Kingdom of Sardinia was restored to include Sardinia, Piedmont, Nice, Savoy, and Genoa. With the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Sicily and Naples were restored to the Bourbon King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. Austria gained Lombardy-Venetia (Lombardy and Venice). Italy also consisted of the Papal States, some independent central states (Tuscany, Parma, Modena and Lucca), and San Marino.

The Revolutions of 1848 created temporary independence in Sicily. The First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849) resulted in a victory of Austria over Sardinia; but after the Second Italian War of Independence (1859), Sardinia annexed the majority of Lombardy from Austria. Also in 1859, the United Provinces of Central Italy was created from the duchies of Tuscany, Parma, and Modena, and the Papal Legations; in 1860, Central Italy was united with Sardinia, but Savoy and Nice were annexed by the French. In 1861 the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) was proclaimed under King Victor Emmanuel II, with much of the Two Sicilies and Papal States having been annexed. After the Third Italian War of Independence (1866), Venetia was annexed; and in 1870 most of the remaining Papal States were further annexed. Only Vatican City and San Marino were to remain independent. In 1871 the capital was moved from Florence to Rome.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was a popular statesman and the greatest military leader during unification, his actions included leading the Expedition of the Thousand (1860–1861) to conquer the Two Sicilies.

German Empire and Austria-Hungary[edit]

Austria-Hungary, with Cisleithania (1–15), Hungary (16), Croatia-Slavonia (17), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (18)
Otto von Bismarck

The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved to form the Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813). It was eventually replaced by the German Confederation (1815–1866), with 39 states created from the previous 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire. The German Confederation contained (in part) two major states: the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918) and the Austrian Empire (1804–1867).

After the Austro-Prussian War (1866), the North German Confederation (1867–1871) of northern German states was formed, which excluded the Austrian Empire and the southern German states. In 1870, the southern states of Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Hesse joined the North German Confederation, and the Constitution of the new German Confederation was enacted in 1871. After the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), which included the Siege of Paris (1870–71), French defeat resulted in Alsace-Lorraine being annexed by the Germans. In 1871, the new Constitution of the German Empire was adopted, with the permanent presidency of Prussia.

German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) (1871–1918) was a German nation state and a federal semi-constitutional monarchy. The empire was composed of four kingdoms: Prussia (Preußen), Bavaria (Bayern), Saxony (Sachsen), and Württemberg. It also included many other territories; larger ones included Baden, Hesse, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Alsace-Lorraine. The first chancellor was Otto von Bismarck (1873–1890), who had been Minister President of Prussia from 1862; nicknamed the "Iron Chancellor", he is regarded as an outstanding statesman and architect of the German Empire. The German Emperor was the King of Prussia, and included Wilhelm I, Friedrich III, and Wilhelm II (1888–1918).

Austria-Hungary (1867–1918): was created after the Austrian Empire had left the German Confederation, and the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867). Austria-Hungary was a constitutional union between the Austria, Hungary, and Croatia-Slavonia; the Habsburg Austrian Emperor was the monarch. Hungary and Croatia-Slavonia (termed the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen or Transleithania) were administered by the Hungarian government; while the other lands (Cisleithania) were administered by the Austrians. Hungary included Transylvania, and the Voivodeship of Serbia and Temes Banat. Following the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Bosnia and Herzegovina nominally remained under sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, but was de facto ceded to Austria-Hungary. The Bosnian Crisis of 1908–1909 was created by the formal annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary.

After defeat in World War I, the German Empire became a much reduced state called the Weimar Republic (1918–1933); this became Nazi Germany (1933–1945), the "3rd Reich" in Nazi terminology; they considered the 1st as being the Holy Roman Empire, and the 2nd as being the German Empire. After World War II, Germany would be divided into West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) and East Germany (the German Democratic Republic), until German reunification in 1990. After defeat in World War I, Austria-Hungary was broken up, and separated into Austria and Hungary; and Austria-Hungarian lands were ceded to Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland and Italy. Before World War II, the Anschluss was the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938. After World War II, Austria was again separated from the German states (West Germany and East Germany).

World War I and the interwar period[edit]

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
British soldiers in dugouts during the Battle of the Somme

Prelude to World War I[edit]

The war had roots in the tensions between France and Germany, exacerbated by the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), and the French defeat and loss of Alsace-Lorraine to the Prussians. The Dual Alliance (1879) and Triple Alliance (1882) created an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy that excluded France. Partly in response, and after the failure of the German–Austrian–Russian League of the Three Emperors (1873–1880) and the secret German–Russian Reinsurance Treaty (1887–1890), the French–Russian Franco-Russian Alliance (1891–93) was created.

The Anglo-German naval arms race (1898–1912) worsened British and German relations. The Entente Cordiale (1904) between the British and French improved their relations, and marked the end of almost a thousand years of intermittent conflict between them. The First and Second Moroccan Crises (1905–1906, 1911) worsened German relations with both France and the Britain. The Anglo-Russian Convention (1907) led to the creation of the Triple Entente (1907), an alliance between Britain, France and Russia.

The Bosnian crisis (1908–1909), when Austria-Hungary announced the formal annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottomans, worsened Austria-Hungarian relations with Italy, Serbia, and Russia. After Italian victory in the Italo-Turkish War (1911–1912), the Balkan Wars (of 1912 and 1913) resulted in the victory of Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia over the Ottoman Empire; but it set the stage for the July Crisis (1914), when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

World War I[edit]

World War I (the Great War, 1914–1918) had the Allied Powers defeating the Central Powers. The Allied Powers included the Triple Entente of France, the British Empire, and Russia (to 1917), but also include Japan (from August 1914), Italy (from April 1915), the USA (from April 1917), and other allies and co-belligerents. The Central Powers would eventually include Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, and other co-belligerents and client states; it evolved from the earlier Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (but Italy never fought for the Central Powers).

  • Started with the July Crisis of 1914, triggered by the assassination, on Sunday, 28 June 1914, of the Austrian heir, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb nationalist. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, a Russian ally, and Russian mobilization commenced.
  • Events of July and August 1914: Austria-Hungary and Germany declared war on Russia. Germany then declared war on France and invaded through Belgium, according to the Schlieffen Plan. Britain declared war against Germany and Austria-Hungary, and sent the British Expeditionary Force to France.
  • German advances in France came to a halt after the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914) with over a half a million casualties; afterwards the Western Front was little changed until 1917.
  • In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered the war in support of the Central Powers, and opened fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai Peninsula. The Middle Eastern theater included the Gallipoli campaign (1915), which resulted in over half a million casualties.
  • The Balkans Campaign (1914–1918) extended the war to the Balkans, with Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in 1915 and the Greece joining the Allies in 1917.
  • On the Eastern Front, the Austro-Hungarian offensive at the Battle of Galicia (1914) resulted in over half a million casualties; the German Gorlice-Tarnów Offensive (1915) resulted in as many as half a million casualties; the Russian Brusilov Offensive (1916) resulted in over a million casualties.
  • On the Western Front, the Battle of Verdun (1916), the longest offensive of the War, resulted in over a half a million casulaties; the First Battle of the Somme (1916) resulted in over a million casualties; the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) (1917) resulted in over half a million casualties.
  • In 1917, the Central Powers achieved victory on the Eastern Front, with Russian capitulation. Other Allied defeats included Serbia (1915) and Romania (1917).
  • The USA joined the Allied Powers in 1917, after German U-boats sank seven US merchant ships, and the Zimmermann Telegram suggesting that Germany was inciting a Mexican-American war.
  • On the Western Front in 1918, the German Spring Offensive resulted in one and a half million casualties; and the Allied Powers' Hundred Days Offensive resulted in over two million casualties.
  • The Central Powers, of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria, all capitulated to the Allied Powers in 1918. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and Germany signed an armistice on 11 November 1918.

World War I was largely based on the attrition due to casualties of troops, rather than decisive territorial gains. As a result of the World War I, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires ceased to exist. An estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war. The 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Interwar period[edit]

Post World War I Europe in 1923

Post World War I, the Four Powers imposed their terms at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference with the Treaty of Versailles; they were represented by David Lloyd George (for Britain), Georges Clemenceau (for France), Woodrow Wilson (for the USA), and Vittorio Orlando (for Italy). The League of Nations was founded in 1920 to maintain world peace. Germany had Alsace-Lorraine returned to France, its colonies taken, was disarmed and was forced to make reparation payments. Austria and Hungary were founded as reduced separate states; Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were also were created. The Baltic states of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland achieved independence from Russia after civil war.

Partition of the Ottoman Empire: after World War I, it was largely under the terms of the British/French Sykes-Picot Agreement. The British had mandates for Mandatory Palestine (1920–1948, today Israel and the State of Palestine); Mesopotamia (which later became Iraq); and the Emirate of Transjordan (1921–1946), which was later divided between Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The French had mandates for Syria and the Lebanon. The Ottoman Sultanate was abolished in 1922; the Republic of Turkey was declared in 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence led by Atatürk.

Spanish Civil War (1936–1939): Spanish Republicans, loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, fought and lost against the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco. Resulted in the continuing rule of Francoist Spain (1936–1975).

Russian revolutions and Soviet Union[edit]

Lenin and Stalin

Russian revolutions: the first successful revolution was the February Revolution (March 1917), and the Russian Provisional Government, a coalition of various revolutionary factions, came to power. With the October Revolution (November 1917), the Bolsheviks, a communist faction led by Vladimir Lenin, took over. With the armistice of December 2017, and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918), the Russian SFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) left World War I. In July 2018, the former Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family were executed.

Russian Civil War (1917–1922): the Red Army of the Bolsheviks defeated the anti-communist; there were between 7 and 12 million deaths (including civilians). Subsequently the Soviet Union or USSR (1922–1991) was established as a union of socialist states which excluded the Baltic states formerly in the Russian Empire; the Soviet Union was dominated by the Russian SFSR. With the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921), Ukraine and Belarus ended up being partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union.

After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, Joseph Stalin, who had been General Secretary since 1922, gradually became an absolute ruler, especially with the Great Purge (1936–1938). The Soviet famine of 1932–33 may have killed as many as eight million, and included the Holodomor, widely seen as genocide against the Ukrainians.

World War II[edit]

Pacific imperial powers in 1939
Europe under Nazi domination 1941-1942
Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1940, leaders of fascist Italy and Germany
Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at the Yalta conference (1945)

Background to World War II: Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922. In 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor (and later Führer) of Nazi Germany, and Germany withdrew from the League of Nations. Ethiopia was invaded by Italy in 1935. Italy and Germany created the Rome-Berlin Axis in 1936, which was later widened to Japan. In 1938 Germany annexed Austria; Czechoslovakia was then annexed by Germany, Hungary and Poland. In March 1939 the UK and France promised to defend the independence of Poland. In August 1939, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Germany planned for mutual non-aggression, and the division of Europe into spheres of influence.

World War II (1939–1945): was a world war in which the Allies would defeat the Axis powers. The Allies would eventually include the Big Four of the USA, UK, Soviet Union, and China; and also governments-in-exile of occupied countries and other combatant states. The Axis powers included the Tripartite Pact powers of Germany, Japan and Italy (until 1943); and other adherents to the Tripartite Pact, and other co-belligerents.

Key aspects include (this list is very limited):

  • Preceded by and included the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), after Japan invaded China, who already occupied Manchuria after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931–1932), with resulting Soviet–Japanese border conflicts (1932 to 1939).
  • In September 1939 the UK and France declared war on Germany after the Invasion of Poland, which included Germany and the Soviet Union. This commenced the European theatre of conflict. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Eastern Europe was eventually partitioned by Germany and the Soviet Union.
  • The Western Front commenced with the the Battle of France (May 1940); within six weeks Germany had conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Germany avoided the stronger Maginot Line fortifications by invading through the Ardennes forest. Erich von Manstein formulated the plan for the battle. This ended land operations on the Western Front until D-Day. Germany divided France into German-occupied France and a German-friendly Vichy France.
  • The Mediterranean and Middle East theatre opened in June 1940, beginning with the Battle of the Mediterranean, and later extending to the Middle East, North Africa, and West Africa. Erwin Rommel commanded the Germans in the the North African campaign.
  • Conflict in the South-East Asian theater began when Japan invaded French Indochina in September 1940, who they occupied. It later included British Burma, Ceylon, Malaya and Singapore; and in Thailand. There was also warfare in the Indian Ocean, as well as the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, and Borneo (see the Pacific War).
  • By early June 1941, only the UK actively opposed Germany in Europe; the Soviet Union and Germany were still at peace, and controlled much of Europe. The Battle of the Atlantic (1939–1945) had weakened the UK due to a blockade of supplies by German U-boats. During July–October 1940, the Battle of Britain was the successful defense of the UK from the German air force.
  • On the 22nd June 1941, Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, commenced the German-Soviet War at the Eastern Front; German-occupied Europe reached a territorial peak 1941–1942. On the Eastern Front, Georgy Zhukov was responsible for some of the Russian Red Army's most decisive victories.
  • In 1941 the USA joined the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7. This commenced the Pacific War; theaters can be divided into North; Central (including Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway); South (including the Solomon Islands and the Battle of Guadalcanal); and South West (including the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, and Borneo). Warfare continued in the South-East Asian theater and China.
  • During 1942, key Axis defeats included the Battle of Midway (in the Pacific), the Second Battle of El Alamein (in North Africa), and Stalingrad (in the Soviet Union, ending in 1943). The Italian Campaign, commencing July 1943, resulted in the collapse of Fascist Italy (1943) and the Allied occupation of all of Italy by 1945. In December 1943 Dwight D. Eisenhower was made Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. On 6 June 1944, D-Day commenced the Allied invasion of northern Europe, the second stage of conflict on the Western Front.
  • V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) declared on May 8, 1945, after the defeat and occupation of Germany by the Allies. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki contributed to the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 (V-J Day).

There were a number of conferences during and after World War II, which involved members of the Big Three (USA, UK and Russia). Conferences included:

  • Casablanca Conference (January 1943): included Franklin D. Roosevelt (USA President), Winston Churchill (UK Prime Minister), and Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud (for Free France).
  • Cairo Conference (November 1943): included Roosevelt, Churchill, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (of the Republic of China). It ended with the Cairo Declaration for post-war Asia.
  • Tehran Conference (November and December 1943), the first meeting of the Big Three: with Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin for Russia. It planned for the continuing European war, and a date for D-Day.
  • Fourth Moscow Conference (October 1944): included Churchill and Stalin and some ministers, with planning for post-war spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.
  • Yalta Conference (February 1945), a pre-V-E Day conference between the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin). It planned for the defeat of Germany, and post-war arrangements.
  • Potsdam Conference (July to August 1945), a pre-V-J Day conference between the Big Three: Stalin, Harry S. Truman (USA President), and Churchill and Clement Attlee (UK Prime Ministers). It created the Potsdam Declaration on the surrender of Japan, and a policy for Germany.

Aftermath of World War II: there were between 50 to 85 million fatalities, mostly civilians in the Soviet Union and China. The war marked the advent of air supremacy and nuclear warfare. The Holocaust, a genocide perpetrated by the Germans during the war, resulted in 17 million deaths, including 6 million Jews. Strategic bombing, the bombing of non-military targets, was a result of the blurring between civilian and military contributions to the war effort, and total war meant that entire populations were dedicated to the war effort. The end of the war marked the beginnings of the Cold War.

Industrialization and cultural changes[edit]

Luddites (or Frame-breakers) smashing a loom (1812)

The First Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in Europe and the USA. Around 1750, developments included the mechanisation of the textiles, developments of iron-making, the introduction of canals, the development of steam power and railways, and the development of all metal machine tools. Luddites protested against the use of machinery, and committed acts of sabotage.

The Second Industrial Revolution was the rapid industrialization between late 19th century and early 20th century. It included the Machine Age, circa 1880–1945. As industrial work forces grew in Western Europe, socialism and trade union activity developed. The last vestiges of serfdom were abolished in Russia in 1861 by Alexander II.

Other important historical periods included: the Victorian era and the Edwardian periods in the UK, 1837–1901–1910 with British Empire building and industry at its peak. The Gilded Age of the United States, 1870–1900, was a period of rapid growth in industry. The Meiji era of Japan, 1868–1912, was the rule of Emperor Meiji and period of Japanese industrialization in which it emerged as a great power. The Great Depression (1929–1939), which came after the Roaring Twenties; an earlier period, called the Long Depression, was between 1873–1879 (by some metrics).

The Arts can be divided into several periods from 1730; these include: the Classical period of music, circa 1730–1820. Rococo architecture and arts, circa 18th century. Neoclassicism, mid 18th century onwards. Romanticism in art and music, c. 1780–1910. Impressionism in art and music, from the mid-19th century. Modernism, circa 1890–1975. Expressionism in art and music, from the early 20th century.

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