World History Timeline

  • Jun 15, 1215

    Magna Carta Signed

    Magna Carta Signed
    English nobles rebelled in 1215, demanding that the king guarantee them certain rights. They wrote their demands in the Magna Carta, implying that the king did NOT have the God-given right to rule them however he pleased. Rather, he had to rule according to the law. King John signed it on June 15, 1215.
  • Nov 13, 1295

    Model Parliament Summoned

    Model Parliament Summoned
    King Edward I, needing money for a war in France, called together a group of lords and influential people—including those from lesser-known towns—to ask for their approval. This gathering set the standard for many more parliaments that happened later, so it was named the “Model Parliament” by historians. From then on, Parliament continued to gain power until it was almost the equal, or partner, of the monarch.
  • Gunpowder Plot

    Gunpowder Plot
    A group of Catholics, led by Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby, conspired to kill the king, James I, when he went to meet with Parliament. They felt that the king, a Protestant, was treating them unfairly. So they filled the cellars underneath the House of Parliament with gunpowder and prepared to light it on fire. But before they could do so, the king discovered their plot. Guy Fawkes was captured in the cellars, and was taken to the Tower of London, where he was tortured until he confessed.
  • Petition of Right Signed

    Petition of Right Signed
    King Charles I, like his father James, wanted money from Parliament. James had repeatedly ignored Parliament, so when Charles asked them for money, they tried to limit the monarchy’s power even further by forcing Charles to sign the Petition of Right in 1628. Charles agreed to sign it so he could get the money he needed, but he went on to disregard the things agreed upon in the document. Parliament continued to struggle to limit royal power and eventually war broke out.
  • English Civil War Begins

    English Civil War Begins
    After years of conflict between Parliament and the monarchy, the royalists—who supported the king—and the antiroyalists—who were in favor of Parliament—finally went to war. The antiroyalists, led by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan, gained control after almost seven years of fighting. King Charles I was judged guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
  • Charles I Executed

    Charles I Executed
    After the English Civil War ended, King Charles was condemned as a tyrant and a murderer, and was beheaded in 1649.
  • Thomas Hobbes’s “Leviathan” Published

    Thomas Hobbes’s “Leviathan” Published
    “Leviathan” was one of the most influential books on political theory written during the Enlightenment. Thomas Hobbes thought people were naturally selfish and greedy and needed an absolute monarchy to control them. He presented the idea that a “social contract” was forged between the governed to submit to their ruler. An equally influential book, “Two Treatises of Government” by John Locke, was published in 1689, but as I couldn’t find a specific date for it, I didn’t make it a separate event.
  • Cromwell Dissolves Parliament

    Cromwell Dissolves Parliament
    After Charles I was executed, Oliver Cromwell, who had commanded the antiroyalist forces in the English Civil War, established the Commonwealth of England. He became unhappy with Parliament because it would not enact his reforms, and, in 1653, he dissolved Parliament, believing it to be corrupt. He established a new government which he called the Protectorate, of which he himself was Lord Protector—in essence a military dictator.
  • Richard Cromwell Resigns/Restoration Begins

    Richard Cromwell Resigns/Restoration Begins
    Oliver Cromwell became increasingly unpopular with the English people, so no one was terribly sad when he died in 1658 and his son, Richard, took over. But Richard wasn’t a strong ruler, nor was he any more popular than his father, so he resigned. Parliament decided they wanted the monarchy back, so they invited Charles II, son of Charles I, to take the throne. A period known as the Restoration began, in which Parliament continued to try to limit the monarchy and give more rights to the people.
  • Glorious Revolution Ends/William & Mary Crowned

    Glorious Revolution Ends/William & Mary Crowned
    The English people were unhappy when James II, younger brother of Charles II, became king, because he and his male heir were Catholics. Not wanting Catholicism to become the official religion, Parliament withdrew support from James and offered the throne to his Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William. James fled, and William & Mary were crowned co-rulers of England. This was known as the Glorious Revolution. Parliament had established its ability to successfully control the monarchy.
  • English Bill of Rights Signed

    English Bill of Rights Signed
    When William and Mary took the throne, Parliament asked that they sign the English Bill of Rights, which did not allow the monarchy to set taxes, suspend laws, or raise an army without Parliament's approval. William and Mary gave their assent on Dec 16, 1689. The Bill of Rights ensured that the people could petition their ruler with grievances against and suggestions for the government. Citizens were guaranteed parliamentary government, individual liberties, and a constitutional monarchy.
  • Louis XVI Gives In to the National Assembly, Promises a Constitution

    Louis XVI Gives In to the National Assembly, Promises a Constitution
    When the 3rd Estate’s appeal for a vote by population was refused by the Estates General, it declared itself the National Assembly and were locked out of the meeting. They regrouped at a nearby tennis court and vowed to stay together until there was a constitution for France (Tennis Court Oath). On July 23 Louis relented and ordered all estates to meet and vote by population on a Constitution. He did not follow through, however, and planned to use military force on the National Assembly.
  • Storming of the Bastille

    Storming of the Bastille
    When news of the King’s plan to use force against the National Assembly reached Paris, they responded by storming the Bastille, a fortress that was intended to be a prison but was instead mainly used to store gunpowder. The people managed to get in and took the gunpowder to use to defend themselves. 18 died, 73 were wounded, 7 guards were killed, and the governor was beheaded.
  • “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” Imposed

    “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” Imposed
    This document guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as property rights. It also included the right of the people to create laws and the right to a fair trial. However, it raised new questions, such as: did women have equal rights as men? If all men were born free and equal, how could slavery be justified? Did religious toleration include equal political rights?
  • March of the Women (“the Bread March”)

    March of the Women (“the Bread March”)
    What began as a demonstration of Parisian women over the price of bread soon turned into a march on Versailles, where the king was. The palace guards were overwhelmed, and the king and his family were forced to return to Paris. They were forced to become virtual prisoners at the palace of Tuileries.
  • Formal Abolition of the Monarchy by the National Convention

    Formal Abolition of the Monarchy by the National Convention
    The National Convention met in September of 1792. It’s first act was to officially abolish the monarchy. This date was also the beginning of the French Republic.
  • Louis XVI Executed

    Louis XVI Executed
    People disagreed on whether or not to execute the royal couple. Some thought the king was a traitor, and others thought the Revolution was being taken too far. Many thought that as long as the royal family lived, the monarchy could be restored. So the royal couple was put on trial for treason and found guilty. Votes for their execution were 387 to 334. Louis was guillotined January 21 of 1793. Marie Antoinette followed him on October 16.
  • Maximilien Robespierre Executed/End of the Reign of Terror

    Maximilien Robespierre Executed/End of the Reign of Terror
    Most of the blame for the violence of the Reign of Terror fell on Maximilien Robespierre, head of the Committee of Public Safety. He was arrested July of 1794, tried and found guilty, and finally guillotined on the 28th. This was considered the end of the Reign of Terror, because afterwards things got better for French citizens and the number of executions declined.
  • Napoleon Launches Coup d’etat

    Napoleon Launches Coup d’etat
    Seeing the French government in disarray, military hero Napoleon Bonaparte took this opportunity to seize control. He launched a successful coup d’etat and took the title “First Consul,” the same as Julius Caesar. He did away with the elected Assembly and appointed a senate instead.
  • Napoleon Crowned Emperor of France

    Napoleon Crowned Emperor of France
    Napoleon was crowned emperor of France by the pope in 1804. According to rumor, he took the crown and crowned himself, implying that he was above the power of the church. Of course, this may not be true, but his previous conduct toward the Church shows that he probably thought that way.
  • Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill Passed

    Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill Passed
    The abolition bill was defeated eleven times in fifteen years before it was finally passed in 1806. It was voted in favor of (100 votes to 34) in the House of Lords. After William Wilberforce received a standing ovation for his speech in the House of Commons debate, which lasted ten hours, the Commons voted in favor of the Bill (283 votes to 16). The Bill received royal assent on March 25, 1807.
  • Napoleon Defeated at the Battle of Leipzig

    Napoleon Defeated at the Battle of Leipzig
    Napoleon was finally defeated by the coalition—and alliance between his enemies, including Britain, Russia, and Spain—in the Battle of Leipzig. The coalition invaded France and Napoleon was forced to abdicate, at first in favor of his son, and then unconditionally at the insistence of his enemies. He was exiled to the island of Elba and Louis XVIII was restored to the throne.
  • Napoleon’s First Abdication

    Napoleon’s First Abdication
    After being defeated by the coalition, Napoleon was forced to abdicate. At first he did so on the condition that he be succeeded by his son, but the coalition insisted on an unconditional surrender. So Napoleon abdicated again on April 11. Soon after the Treaty of Fontainebleau exiled him to the island of Elba with an annual income of 2,000,000 francs.
  • Erie Canal Completed

    Erie Canal Completed
    This canal connected Lake Erie, and therefore all the Great Lakes, to the Hudson River and therefore New York. Construction began in 1816. The canal’s construction sped up western development.
  • “Iron Horse” Race

    “Iron Horse” Race
    The race was between a horse-drawn rail car and Peter Cooper’s Tom Thumb engine, and even though the locomotive did not win, the race served to demonstrate the usefulness of steam power. Supposedly the train lost because of a technical problem, and was well ahead of the horse beforehand.
  • Sadler Proposes the Ten Hour Bill

    Sadler Proposes the Ten Hour Bill
    After the start of the Industrial Revolution, children would often work in factories, sometimes for up to 18 hours a day. They were often abused and injured while working; there weren’t any laws about it. Michael Sadler proposed a bill limiting hours to 10 per day for people under 18. Parliament was unwilling, but it was agreed that there would be an enquiry into working conditions of children in factories. 48 people were interviewed in the Sadler Commission. The Factory Act was passed in 1833.
  • Reform Bill of 1832 Passed

    Reform Bill of 1832 Passed
    This bill broadened the number of people eligible to vote, albeit by only about 1%. The Chartists protested inequalities created by this bill. They wanted votes for all men and the abolition of the requirement that members of Parliament own property. They also wanted annual general elections and the secret ballot, and thought Parliament members should get paid so that poorer people would be able to do it more easily.
  • Abolition of Slavery Act Passed

    Abolition of Slavery Act Passed
    The buying and selling of slaves was already prohibited, but it was not illegal to own slaves. The Slavery Abolition Act took effect on August 1, 1834, almost a year after it was approved, and abolished slavery in Great Britain and its colonies.
  • First Opium War Begins

    First Opium War Begins
    The British wanted to trade with China for tea, but China didn’t want what they had to offer. Britain used its control of India, where opium was grown, to sell it to China. The trade of opium became illegal but it was smuggled in anyways, angering the Chinese government. Many people were getting addicted, and cash was flowing out. The emperor sent Lin Tse-Hsu to end the trade. He treated addicts, punished dealers, and forced foreign merchants to sign pledges. This led to war in 1839.
  • Crystal Palace Exhibition Begins

    Crystal Palace Exhibition Begins
    People came from all over the world to see new inventions and curiosities from across the British Empire. The Crystal Palace itself was the largest enclosed space at the time and contained 300,000 panes of glass. As many as 14,000 visitors came. The palace burnt down in 1936.
  • London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Act Passed

    London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Act Passed
    In the first half of the 19th century, London’s population had more than doubled, and cemetery space was running out. Graves were often dug up and bones scattered across churchyards. The bodies were too close to water supplies and spread disease. After a cholera outbreak produced thousands more corpses, Sir Richard Broun proposed a large cemetery be set up outside the city. The cemetery was called “London’s Necropolis” and had a railway line to transport coffins to the burial site.
  • Treaty of Kanagawa Signed

    Treaty of Kanagawa Signed
    Until this point, Japan was nearly isolated from the rest of the world. This ended when U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his gunships into the port used by the emperor, resulting in the trade treaty of Kanagawa. Other Western powers soon gained similar trading rights. The shogun sent people to China, heard of the situation there, and decided that Japan had to open up voluntarily to the West if they wanted to do so on their own terms. This angered many samurai, causing the Meiji Revolt.
  • Sepoy Mutiny Begins

    Sepoy Mutiny Begins
    Up to this point, India had for a while been under the control of the British East India Co. Sepoys were Indian soldiers used by the Company. The Indian population was made up of mostly Muslims and Hindus. A rumor was spread that the rifle cartridges, which the sepoys ripped with their teeth, were dipped in cow and pig fat. Cows are sacred to Hindus and pigs unclean to Muslims, so this caused an uprising among both groups. Britain itself took over India as a colony, ending the mutiny.
  • Prince Albert Dies

    Prince Albert Dies
    Prince Albert was a minor German prince who met Queen Victoria when she was 16, before she took the crown. They married four years later and had nine children, until he died of typhoid fever at 42. The Queen spent the rest of her life in mourning, only wearing black. She had a new suite of clothing put out for him every day.
  • John Deere Gets Patent for Steel Plows

    John Deere Gets Patent for Steel Plows
    Though he is credited with inventing the steel plow in 1837, John Deere didn’t get a patent for it until 1865. His was the first such plow that was commercially successful.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Makes the First Telephone Call

    Alexander Graham Bell Makes the First Telephone Call
    Alexander Graham Bell developed the first telephone in 1876. He used electricity to transmit sounds over distance, which was a new concept at the time. He made his first call on March 10, summoning his assistant, Thomas Watson, from the next room. He personally inaugurated the New York-Chicago telephone service in 1882. When telephones became more widely used, switchboard operators would plug in wires to connect calls.
  • Edison Files a Patent for the Light Bulb

    Edison Files a Patent for the Light Bulb
    Thomas Edison invented at least 1,000 things. Among them, he managed to harness electricity and develop the first light bulb. He also dabbled in moving pictures and invented the phonograph.
  • Berlin Conference Begins

    Berlin Conference Begins
    As European powers began to compete more and more for territory in Africa, it was decided that a set of rules for conquest was required in order to prevent conflict. From 1884 to 1885 European leaders met in Berlin to divide Africa amongst themselves. No African leaders were invited, and no attention was paid to existing ethnic boundaries. However, one good thing that came out of the Conference was the decision to entirely eradicate the slave trade.
  • Leopold II Establishes the Congo Free State

    Leopold II Establishes the Congo Free State
    Instead of being taken over as a colony, the Belgian Congo was owned privately by the Belgian King, Leopold II. He exploited the Congo’s people and resources by forcing the Congolese to extract rubber. They were mistreated and harshly overworked, and millions died. When word got out, international outcry caused the Belgian government to take over the Congo as a proper colony in 1908.
  • Ethiopia Wins the Battle of Adwa

    Ethiopia Wins the Battle of Adwa
    Ethiopia was the only African nation to retain independence from colonization by matching European firepower. Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II modernized his nation, supplying his army with modern weapons and decisively defeating the Italians when they invaded in the Battle of Adwa. Thus Ethiopia gained the respect of European powers.
  • J’Accuse Published

    J’Accuse Published
    After Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason (spying against the French government) and sent to Devil’s Island, a prison colony, famous author Emile Zola wrote a public letter, J’Accuse, accusing the government of mistrial and cover-up. He was prosecuted for libel and spent a year in prison. Dreyfus got a new trial, and although he was found guilty again, he was given a presidential pardon to put and end to the affair and the public unrest it caused.
  • Wright Brothers Fly

    Wright Brothers Fly
    In 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their gasoline-powered flying machine for 59 seconds at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, thereby inventing the first successful airplane. This gave rise to the aircraft industry, which had grown rapidly in just a few years by the start of World War I.
  • Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

    Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
    The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was the catalyst that began WW1. The assassination took place in Sarajevo when the Archduke’s car stopped right in front of Gavrilo Princip, the assassin, who shot the Archduke and wife. The assassin was Serbian, so Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia. Declarations of war were made, and each side called on its network of allies, turning a local issue into a world war.
  • Gallipoli Campaign Begins

    Gallipoli Campaign Begins
    This campaign took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire and lasted until January 6, 1916. It was a British and French operation, helped by soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, to capture Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia. This operation failed, with heavy casualties on both sides. It is considered one of the greatest failures of the Allies, and one of the greatest victories of the Turks.
  • Execution of Edith Cavell

    Execution of Edith Cavell
    Edith Cavell was a British nurse who saved lives on both sides of WW1. She helped about 200 Allied soldiers escape German-occupied Belgium, for which she was arrested by the Germans and accused of treason. She was killed by firing squad despite international outcry. Her execution received worldwide condemnation, which served to turn more people against the Germans.
  • America Enters WWI

    America Enters WWI
    After the sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship with many Americans on board, by a German U-boat, America was strongly inclined to join the war. The Zimmerman Telegram was the last straw—it was a note from Germany to Mexico, intercepted by the British and given to America, that exposed a German proposition that Mexico take back lost territory from America. Congress voted to declare war on Germany, and American troops were sent over.
  • Representation of the People Act Passed

    Representation of the People Act Passed
    The women’s rights movement was becoming more popular. Activists such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her family fought for equal pay, equal marriage and divorce laws, and other things, above all the right to vote. Some suffragettes became militant and were arrested, but the movement was not put to rest and the Representation of the People Act was passed, giving women over 30 and all men the right to vote. The Reform Act of 1928 lowered that age to 21 for women.
  • Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Russia Leaves WW1)

    Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Russia Leaves WW1)
    By 1917, the war was going badly for Russia. Millions of Russian soldiers were dying, and there was no public support for the war. What’s more, the Czar was overthrown and the Bolsheviks (Communists) took over and pulled Russia out of the war. They made a separate peace treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which they took even though it was unfavorable.
  • WWI Armistice Signed

    WWI Armistice Signed
    After years of fighting and expending troops and resources without much progress being made, Germany finally gave up and signed a ceasefire agreement with the Allies at 11 am on November 11, 1918. November 11 went on to be celebrated as Armistice Day in many countries. Soldiers at the front thought the armistice was temporary, but it was not—the war was really over.
  • Treaty of Versailles Signed

    Treaty of Versailles Signed
    The Treaty that officially ended WW1 was signed on the 5-year anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. German leaders were excluded from the peace agreements, and the terms of the treaty were decided by the Big Four: leaders of France, Britain, America, and Italy—sans America, because they signed their own treaty with Germany. Germany was forced to accept the treaty even though it made them lose territory, accept responsibility for the war, pay enormous reparations, etc.