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British Culture

By jan_m

    1738-1820. Reign: 1760-1800, as King of Great Britain and King of Ireland; 1801-1820, as King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George III was considered a down-to-earth man; his interest in agriculture earned him the satirical nickname of “Farmer George” (later used as an idealisation to criticise the splendour of his son, George). Due to George III's bouts of mental illness in the latter half of his life, his son George, Prince of Wales, acted as regent from 1811 to 1820.
  • Boston Tea Party

    Boston Tea Party
    Reacting to levies imposed by the East India Company on tea exports to America, a group of colonists boarded several ships in Boston Harbour and threw three shiploads of tea overboard. "No taxation without representation" (i.e. in the Parliament of Westminster) became the slogan of the period. Significantly, these colonists did not fight (initially) to gain independence, but to be recognised as British citizens with guaranteed rights.
  • Declaration of Independence

    Declaration of Independence
    Drawn up by Thomas Jefferson and signed following a Continental Congress of all thirteen British colonies in America, the ‘United States Declaration of Independence’ is a document in which the colonies declare their independence of the Kingdom of Great Britain and explain their reasons for doing so with reference to natural rights (equality; rights to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”).
  • War of American Independence

    War of American Independence
    Originally, a war between Britain and its American colonies that had declared independence. In the end, a large-scale that involved all major European powers, with battles taking place in America, the West Indies and India. Outnumbered, Britain had to concede its defeat in 1783 (Treaty of Paris).
  • French Revolution

    French Revolution
    "Liberty, equality, fraternity." At first, many people in Britain were sympathetic to the revolutionaries' cause as their aims (establishment of a strong Parliament to keep the monarch in check) seemed to be informed by British history. However, the French revolution was soon dominated by radicalism: Robespierre established a rule of terror and led France into a war with its European neighbours.
  • Execution of Louis XVI

    Execution of Louis XVI
    Arrested in 1792, King Louis XVI of France was found guilty of high treason by the National Convention. His death by guillotine was an important event in the French Revolution, anticipating the begin of the Reign of Terror. In Britain, it put an end to sympathies for the revolutionaries' cause. Louis XVI's wife, Marie Antoinette, was executed in October the same year.
  • French Revolutionary Wars

    French Revolutionary Wars
    1793-1802. The wars, waged between France (under the revolutionary government) and several European states (Britain, Prussia, Austria), began as an effort to defend or contain the revolutionary movement respectively. In Britain, "Habeas Corpus" was suspended in 1794 and legislation designed to nip revolutionary sentiments in the bud was enacted: inciting hatred against the king, the government or the constitution was now considered treason.
  • Union of Great Britain and Ireland

    Union of Great Britain and Ireland
    With the Union with Ireland Act (1800) taking effect on 1 January, 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. The Irish Parliament in Dublin was dissolved. Despite the Union, Catholics were still unable to vote at general elections or to hold parliamentary and most public offices.
  • Napoleonic Wars

    Napoleonic Wars
    The Napoleonic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between France under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte (proclaimed Emperor in 1804) and a number of European nations acting in different coalitions between 1803 and 1815.
  • Battle of Trafalgar

    Battle of Trafalgar
    Sea battle fought between Britain and an alliance of France and Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. In cultural memory, a decisive British naval victory. However, the war went on until 1815, with Napoleon establishing an embargo against Britain (Continental system/Kontinentalsperre). Admiral Nelson lost his life at Trafalgar.
  • Slave trade abolished

    Slave trade abolished
    Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act ("An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade"). The Act abolished slave trade in the British Empire, whereas slavery remained legal until 1833.
  • Battle of Waterloo

    Battle of Waterloo
    Napoleon's last battle. Victory of the allied troops of Britain (under the command of the Duke of Wellington) and Prussia (under the command of Blücher) against those of France.

    1762-1830. Reign: Since 1820, King of Great Britain and Ireland. The eldest son of George III. In 1785, George IV secretly married the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert. The marriage was declared void as George had not had his father's permission to marry (as he was required by law). In 1795 he married again: his cousin Caroline of Brunswick. After 1811, George acted as Prince Regent, replacing his father who suffered from mental illness.
  • Stockton and Darlington Railway

    Stockton and Darlington Railway
    Authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1821, the first public railway was opened in 1825, connecting the towns of Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington in North East England. The railway was used to carry goods, particularly coal. Passenger transport was first offered on the Liverpool-Manchester line in 1830.
  • Catholic Relief Act

    Responding to rising pressure from the Catholic majority in Ireland, the Act granted full emancipation to British and Irish Catholics, i.e. they were no longer excluded from public offices and could enter Parliament. With Protestant dissenters and now Catholics serving as MPs, the idea of the unity of state and the (Anglican) church was "shattered" (Kramer 155).

    1765-1837. Reign: Since 1830 King of Great Britain and Ireland. The younger brother of George IV, he inherited the throne aged 64. His reign saw several political and social reforms implemented by the Whig majority in Parliament.
    William IV had no legitimate children that outlived him. However, he had several illegitimate children from his affair with the actress Dorothea Jordan; one of their descendants is the present British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
  • First Reform Bill

    Passed by Parliament as the "Representation of the People Act" (also known as "Great Reform Act"). Introduced changes in the electoral system of the United Kingdom. 56 rotten boroughs were abolished; 42 new boroughs were created to ensure fair representation for the growing industrial cities. The franchise remained contingent on property. Nevertheless, the electorate almost doubled in England and Wales.
  • Factory Act

    An Act of Parliament to regulate child labour in the textile industry. The employment of children under 9 in textile factories became illegal, and children between 9 and 13 had to receive two hours of schooling per day.

    1819-1901. Reign: since 1837 as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, since 1876 also as Empress of India. The niece of William IV, Victoria succeeded to the throne at the age of 18. From 1840 to his death in 1861, she was married to Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The royal couple had nine children and emphasised middle-class rather than aristocratic values: family life, respectability, industriousness and an interest in the arts, business and technological progress (--> Great Exhibition).
  • The People's Charter

    The People's Charter
    A petition for democratic reform on the basis of six points: one man (!), one vote; equal electoral districts; payment of members of Paliament; elections by secret ballot; removal of property qualifications for MPs; and parliamentary elections every year. Gave rise to 'Chartism', a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom, which had its high time during the economic crises of the 1840s.
  • Great Famine (Irish Potato Famine)

    Great Famine (Irish Potato Famine)
    In the autumns of 1845 and 1846, the potato crop in Ireland, which had accounted for about 60% of the Irish food production, was hit by blight, causing the plants to rot. During the four-year famine, about 1 million people died; a further 2.5 million people emigrated to Britain and North America over the next decade (Maurer 345). The disaster was aggravated by decisions of the British government: Ireland continued to export food, and relief efforts were insufficient.
  • Communist Manifesto

    Communist Manifesto
    Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto (in German language) was published in London in 1848; an English translation followed in 1850. It claimed that "[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles".
  • Great Exhibition

    Great Exhibition
    The "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations" or simply the Great Exhibition took place form May 1st to October 15th 1851. Held in the Crystal Palace, a cast-iron and glass building erected in Hyde Park, it attracted almost six million visitors. The event was meant to showcase the world's most advanced inventions, machines and works of art.
  • Crimean War

    Crimean War
    Initially a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. In 1854, Britain, France, Austria and Prussia, fearing Russian expansion in the Balkans, declared war against Russia, which conceded defeat in 1856. In Britain, the war sparked a public discussion about the state of the army, particularly the lack of medical supplies; Florence Nightingale came to prominence caring for wounded soldiers. The war also saw the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade (poem by Alfred Tennyson).
  • Indian Mutiny of 1857

    A rebellion of native Indian members of the Bengal army (employed by the British East India company) who feared that new conditions of service would reduce their privileges and status. Cultural insensitivity (cartridges coated in animal fat given to Hindu and Muslim soldiers) added insult to injury. In 1858, an Act of Parliament transferred control over India from the East India Company to the British state.
  • The Origin of Species

    The Origin of Species
    Based on evidence collected during his expedition on the Beagle in the 1830s, Charles Darwin presented a theory of evolution and the diversity of life that was based on the principles of natural selection. In 1871, Darwin's exploration of human evolution, The Descent of Man, was published. Derided as "Social Darwinism", Darwin's theory was adopted as an ideology that proclaimed a struggle for existence between both individuals and societies and justified "laissez-faire" and imbalances of power.
  • Death of Prince Albert

    Death of Prince Albert
    After Prince Albert's untimely death from typhoid fever, Queen Victoria began a long period of mourning, marked by her withdrawal from public life.
  • Second Reform Act

    The Second Reform Act virtually doubled the electorate, enabling one-third of adult males in Britain and one-sixth in Ireland to vote in parliamentary elections. In particular, the vote was extended to working-class electors in the boroughs (i.e. towns and cities).
  • Ballot Act

    Ballot Act
    Required that elections to Parliament and local government be carried out by secret ballot, hence reducing the potential for bribes and threats as nobody could control who voted for whom. (The photograph shows the secret ballot box used at a by-election in August 1872, the first one to be held after the Ballot Act was passed.)
  • Victoria Empress of India

    Following the Indian mutiny, India had come under direct control of the British government: the East India company had to transfer its possessions, administrative structures and command of the troops. In 1876, Parliament passed the Royal Titles Act, whereby Victoria was styled Empress of India. (a href='' >BBC History</a> suggests PM Disraeli's main motive was flattery.)
  • Third Reform Bill

    Extended the vote to working-class voters in the countryside. As a consequence roughly two-thirds of adult males in England and Wales, three-fifths in Scotland and half in Ireland were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. Apart from women, the Act excluded male servants and most members of the armed forces. Even so, critics considered it "a leap in the dark" (Kramer 148) for giving power to the 'unpredictable' masses.
  • Trials against Oscar Wilde

    Trials against Oscar Wilde
    Having sued the Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel and lost (the Marquess having claimed that Wilde "posed as a sodomite"), Oscar Wilde was tried on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. Prosecution opened on 26 April. While the jury was unable to reach a verdict, a second trial ended with Wilde being sentenced to two years' hard labour. After his release in 1897, Wilde went into exile on the Continent. Suffering from poor health, he died in November 1900.
  • Boer War

    Boer War
    1899-1902. The Boers (Dutch for "farmers") were settlers of European descent who had formed two South African states, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, close to the British Cape Colony. In the war between Britain and the Boers, the Boer states lost their independence (whereas the Boers were granted limited self-government). For Britain, it meant the end of the policy of "splendid isolation". It also received criticism for its detention of civilians in concentration camps.

    1841-1910. Reign: since 1901, as King of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India. The eldest son of Victoria, Edward VII succeeded on his mother‘s death in 1901. Some contemporaries hailed him “The Peacemaker”, as he advocated good relations between Britain and European powers and brokered the Entente cordiale with France (1904); to others, he was a philanderer, as he had spent the first sixty years of his life in relative leisure and had had many mistresses.