Britain in the 18th Century

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    18th CENTURY

  • William III dies and Anne accedes to the throne

    William III died two weeks after being thrown from his horse when it tripped over a molehill in Hyde Park, London. Jacobites, gloating at their old enemy's downfall, drank to 'the little gentleman in black velvet' who had inadvertently helped to bring about the king's death. William was succeeded by Anne, who was the younger sister of his wife Mary and the second daughter of James II and Anne Hyde.
  • John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, defeats the French at Blenheim, Bavaria

  • Anne dies and George I accedes to the throne

    Anne, the last Stuart monarch, died at Kensington Palace in London aged 49. None of her children survived her, so under the terms of the Act of Succession of 1701 she was succeeded by George, Elector of Hanover, who was proclaimed as George I. He was the first of the Hanoverian monarchs. In dynastic terms at least, Britain had entered a new age.
  • British convicts start being transported to penal colonies overseas

    In 1718, the Transportation Act introduced penal transportation. People convicted of capital crimes had their sentences 'commuted' to 14 years or life in the Americas. Convicts found guilty of non-capital crimes received seven-year sentences. Between 1718 and 1776, over 50,000 convicts were transported to Virginia and Maryland in the modern United States. The American Revolution made further transportation impossible.
  • 'South Sea Bubble' bursts and triggers a financial panic

    The South Sea Company was a financial and trading organisation mainly dealing with Spanish America. It received trading rights to the South Seas in return for financing the British government's debt. Shares were issued and unrealistic expectations cultivated. A monopoly of the slave trade was envisaged. When it was discovered that the directors of the profitless company had sold out, it sparked a massive panic and a major financial crash occurred in the City of London. Huge fortunes were lost.
  • George I dies and is succeeded by the second Hanoverian king, George II

    The threat of a Jacobite rebellion (aimed at re-establishing the Stuart dynasty) continued into George II's reign. It continued to be a source of alarm until its final defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. As the country prospered, the king's early unpopularity - partially caused by his preference for Hanover over England - changed into a general respect.
  • George II becomes the last British monarch to lead his army into battle

    The Battle of Dettingen, at which the British allies defeated the French, was just one engagement in the War of the Austrian Succession. The war began in 1740, when Prussia invaded the Austrian region of Silesia, but its underlying causes were rival claims for the hereditary lands of the Austrian monarchy, the Habsburgs. Prussia allied with France against Austria, Britain and the Netherlands. The war ended in 1748 with all seized lands returned, except Silesia, which Austria ceded to Prussia.
  • Seven Years' War

    Seven Years' War
  • Riots erupt in American colonies after parliament levies 'stamp' taxes

    In 1765, British Prime Minister George Grenville's administration passed the Stamp Act to raise extra taxes from the North American colonists. The money was intended to pay for the colonists' own military defence against possible future French incursions. Stamp duties were levied on newspapers and legal documents. Six of the 13 American colonies petitioned against the act and riots broke out. The Stamp Act was repealed in March 1766.
  • Captain James Cook leads his first expedition to the Pacific

    In 1768, James Cook led an expedition on HMS 'Endeavour' to observe the astrological phenomenon of the transit of Venus from Tahiti. The voyage continued into the South Pacific Ocean, where Cook circumnavigated New Zealand and charted the east coast of Australia. His team of botanists and scientists brought back to England many important specimens and much scientific information. Cook made two further Pacific voyages. He was killed on the second of these in 1779 by warriors in Hawaii.
  • Slavery is effectively outlawed in England

    When the enslaved James Somerset escaped from his owner in London, he was captured and forced on to a ship bound for Jamaica. With the help of abolitionist Granville Sharpe, Somerset's case was taken to court and Lord William Mansfield, the lord chief justice, ruled that Somerset should be freed. This was widely, and mistakenly, believed to mean that slavery was outlawed in England. Slave owners continued to capture their runaway slaves and take them back to the Caribbean, but the case marked a
  • First fleet of convicts sails to Australia

    Since 1718, Britain had transported convicts to its North American colonies, until this was ended by the American War of Independence. On 13 May 1787, penal transportation resumed with a fleet of convict ships setting out from Portsmouth for Botany Bay. This marked the beginning of transportation to Australia. Between 1787 and 1868, when transportation was abolished, over 150,000 felons were exiled to New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land and Western Australia.
  • Act of Union creates the United Kingdom

    Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Ireland were formally joined under the Act of Union to create the United Kingdom in 1801. 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.
  • Treaty of Utrecht ends a decade of war in Europe

    The English and their Dutch allies came to terms with France at the Treaty of Utrecht, ending ten years of warfare. Many long-standing problems were resolved by the treaty. In particular, the French agreed to abandon their support for the dynastic claims of James II's son, James, to the throne of Great Britain. France also recognised the Hanoverian succession in Britain, which had been established by the Act of Settlement in 1701.