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A Victorian Timeline

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Being an abbreviated account of discoveries and struggles during the life of the Queen, beginning in the year of her birth and ending with her death

A timeline for a roleplaying game setting can be a many-splendored thing for some and an overwhelming bother for others. As a player, a timeline is a way for me to connect quickly with the major events and concerns of an era, which helps me to craft my character's background, attitudes, and goals. As a Storyteller, I don't want to be swamped with the details but I do want to include some historic events in NPCs and plots, and I only have so much time to indulge in my own research. I rely on roleplaying books and web sites to provide information that will speed up my own processes and save me time, and I present this site in the hopes of providing the same benefit to others.

Plenty of timelines exist of the Victorian era, and they each have their own focus and purpose. My focus here is on the many years in which Queen Victoria lived and on the major discoveries and political movements of her time. There is a bias toward England, continental Europe, and the United States, but I do try to include more international events. The purpose of this resource is to be able to find events that might have affected your character(s) or their families, and to find places and dates that are ripe for starting chronicles. The timeline will also give you an idea of common technologies.

I don't strive for painstakingly detailed historical accuracy in my gaming, but I do have a great appreciation for history and I like to include a good dose of historical flavor in all of my games. Since this is a personal enterprise, however, I haven't hunted down strong academic sources for deeper review; feel free to do so with whatever strikes your fancy, and if you'd like to share a resource, please do. I studied the Victorians in college but I'm no Victorian scholar, so I learned a lot for this project.

It might seem a bit much to begin a timeline in 1819 when the Victorian Lost book focuses on the last decade of the century, but I have several reasons for doing so. A bit of a broader look will provide a better sense of what countries have been going through and how people's lives have been changing (or failing to change, despite well-meant efforts). Although you might be starting your campaign in 1891, you'll likely be playing an adult character who was shaped by the disasters and victories of previous decades. Perhaps your chap was caught up in "Bloody Sunday" in Trafalgar Square, or your disgruntled chambermaid's mother died in the last cholera outbreaks in the mid-1860s. And you might find that you'd like to engage earlier decades, perhaps hopping forward in time (particularly if you decide to play Vampire).

If you download the Google Docs version of this timeline, you can add or remove entries as you see fit. If you add to it significantly, I'd love to see your work!

 

Date

Event

1819

Birth of Victoria.

The first financial panic strikes the United States.

The SS Savannah becomes the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

1820

George IV succeeds his father George III (who reigned 59 years), ending the British Regency.

The Cato Street conspiracy is discovered in England; its main figures are executed.

First confirmed sightings of Antarctica; landfall not confirmed until 1840.

1821

Greek War of Independence begins; it ends in 1832.

George IV crowned.

Mexican independence from Spain.

Peru and Panama declare independence from Spain; Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica gain independence from Spain.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland starts eruptions that continue on and off until 1823.

1822

The Chippewas give a great deal of land to the United Kingdom.

Brazil declares its independence from Portugal.

Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion use the Rosetta Stone to decipher hieroglyphs.

1823

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is almost completely destroyed by fire in Rome.

Joseph Smith, Jr. reports being guided by God through the angel Moroni to the golden plates.

The Lancet is founded by Thomas Wakley in London.

James Monroe first introduces the Monroe Doctrine, prohibiting any European attempts to recolonize the Americas.

1824

The Ashanti defeat British forces in the Gold Coast and kill Sir Charles MacCarthy, the British governor.

Chumash rise against Spanish abuses in the California missions.

The Egyptians capture Crete.

1825

The last Creek lands are turned over in Georgia.

Charles X of France formally recognizes Haiti’s independence in exchange for 150 million gold francs (slave trade profit loss).

Uruguay secedes from Brazil.

Discovery of Malden Island.

Bolivia obtains its independence from Spain.

The stock market Panic of 1825 hurts England most but cascades through Europe, the United States, and Latin America.

The world's first modern railway opens in England, which also accepts trade unions.Opening of the Erie Canal.

London hosts the first horse-drawn buses and the largest city population.

1826

Valencia stages the final auto-da-fé.The first railway tunnel runs between Liverpool and Manchester in England.

Britain annexes Assam.

First permanent photograph of nature is taken in France.

1826-1828

Russo-Persian War.

1827

Brazil battles Argentine-Uruguayan forces.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is the first railroad to take on both people and freight for commercial travel through the U.S.

The Ottoman dey slaps a French official, resulting in war and French Algeria.

The Great Fire of Turku destroys 3/4 of the city in Finland, with many human casualties.

1828

Russo-Turkish War begins, ending in 1829.

A typhoon kills around 10,000 in Kyūshū, Japan.

Discovery of gold starts the Georgia Gold Rush, which peters out in the 1840s.

1828-1834

Portuguese Civil War, affecting the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and the Catholic Church, in addition to Portugal itself.

1829

Catholic Relief Act and emancipation, allowing Catholics to enter most public offices and vote.

The Metropolitan Police Service is established and goes on patrol in London.

George Shillibeer starts the first bus service in London.

1830

Passage of the Indian Removal Act in the US leads to forced deportations.

France invades Algeria and undergoes the July Revolution.

The Belgian Revolution begins.

1831

Bosnians revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Nat Turner’s slave rebellion erupts.

Battle of Warsaw ends the November Uprising of 1830.

Slave trading is outlawed in Brazil.

1832

Great Reform Act leaves out those who don’t own property or rent annually for at least £10 and women, but reforms voting.

Cholera outbreak reaches the UK for the first time, claiming 6,536 Londoners and 55,000 British citizens; it also strikes France and North America.

Kingdom of Greece is formed, ending their war for independence.

Black Hawk War begins and fuels more Indian removal efforts in the U.S.

June rebellion in France.

Egyptians battle and defeat the Ottomans in Israel and Anatolia.

1833

Britain reclaims the Falkland Islands.

The Factory Act restricts working hours of children.

London Fire-Engine Establishment forms, serving London through some fifteen fire engine stations, with two to three engines apiece.

First Carlist (civil) War erupts in Spain.

1834

Slavery Abolition Act outlaws the practice in the British Empire, with few exceptions, provisions for apprenticeships before slaves were fully released, and compensation for former owners; full emancipation by 1838. Britain had been outlawed and been suppressing the Atlantic slave trade efforts since 1807.

Portugal’s Liberal Wars end.

The Poor Law Amendment Act required able-bodied men to enter workhouses to receive public assistance.

Fire destroys the Palace of Westminster.

The British East India company loses its monopoly on trade with China.

1835

The first assassination attempt against a U.S. president occurs (Jackson).

An earthquake destroys Concepcion, Chile.

The first railroad in continental Europe opens in Belgium.

The Texas Revolution begins with Mexico, eventually leading to the Mexican-American War in the 1840s.

Many buildings in Manhattan are lost to The Great Fire of New York.

1836

The first railway in London opens between the city and Greenwich.

The Alamo is surrounded by the Mexican army and eventually overtaken.

Spain formally recognizes Mexico’s independence.

1837

The financial Panic of 1837 grips the United States; the economy didn’t recover until 1843.

Eighteen year old Victoria succeeds William IV and moves to Buckingham Palace, the first monarch to keep that estate as her home.

Dutch intervention and capture of Bonjol helps end the Padri War.

1838-1841

The Great Western Railway opens in stages.

1838

The first photograph of people is taken in Paris, leading to a demand for portraits by the middle classes and memento mori keepsakes; the fragile, original-only prints are overtaken by the copy-friendly wet collodion process in the 1850s.

The Trail of Tears relocation afflicts Cherokee Indians in the United States, ending forcible relocations of various tribes throughout the decade.

Queen Victoria is coronated.

The Central American Civil War begins and lasts until 1840.

1839

The first electric telegraph line opens between London to West Drayton.

Start of the First Anglo-Afghan War between Britain and Russia (acting through India and Afghanistan), which continues until 1842.

The Newport Rising pitted Chartist sympathizers against British authority; leaders sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered were given transportation for life instead after a nationwide effort.

A cyclone leads to a 40 foot water surge that devastates coastal India.

1840

Victoria marries her cousin Prince Albert.

Climbing Boy Bill outlaws employing kids as chimney sweeps, but it didn’t stop until 1875’s Chimney Sweeper’s act, which made it illegal for anyone under 21.

1844

Irish potato famine starts.

1845

S. S. Great Britain, the first propeller-driven steamship.

1846

Repeal of the Corn Laws, opening free trade.

1847

Factory Act reduces the hours women and children can work in factories to 10 hours per day.

1848

Cholera epidemic runs through 1849, killing 14,137 Londoners and 50,000 British citizens, leading to the construction of sewers through 1854 that dumped waste into the Thames, making it worse.

“...the average ‘gentleman’ died at forty-five, while the average tradesman died in his mid-twenties.”

Start of the California Gold Rush, which ended in 1855.

1849

American Gold Rush begins.

1850s

Bubonic plague outbreak in China spreads south from Yunnan Province and intensifies by the end of the century, ending up in Hong Kong (1894) and India (1896).

1851

First telegraph cable laid across the English Channel.

Invention of instantaneous photography by William Fox Talbot.

First cigarettes sold in Britain.

Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.

Half the population of Great Britain is urban; London population grows from 1.1 million in 1801 to 2.7 million.

Queen Charlotte’s Gold Rush, ending in 1852.

Victorian Gold Rush begins in Victoria, Australia, running through the late 1860s, leading to doubling Australia’s population, paying off Britain’s debt, and paving the way for expansion.

1853-1856

Crimean War.

1856

Henry Bessemer invents the blast furnace, allowing mass production of steel.

1857

First telegraph cable laid across the Atlantic.

Matrimonial Causes Act permits divorce for adultery (but women can’t petition until 1923).

Suppression of Indian mutiny against British rule in India.

1858

Britain takes over the government of India.

1859

Big Ben enters service.

First women allowed in Royal Academy schools.

Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

1860

Introduction of trams into England.

1861

Death of Prince Albert of typhoid fever at age 42.

American Civil War begins (and ends in 1865).

1863

First underground railway, Metropolitan Railway in London between Paddington & Farringdon St.

Marriage of Prince of Wales (Bertie, later King Edward VII) and Alexandra.

Broadmoor criminal lunatic asylum opened.

1864

Cafe Royal established in London.

1865

National Association for Women’s Suffrage formed in Manchester; no voting rights until 1918.

1866

Metropolitan drainage system finished in London (began 1855); after this, no major cholera outbreaks occur in the city.

First Atlantic telegraph cable successfully laid by the SS Great Eastern.

1867

Second Reform Act, giving suffrage to tax-paying males of the urban working class.

1868

Last public execution; public hangings stop because they cause crime among spectators.

Last shipment of convicts from England to Australia.

1869

Opening of the Suez Canal.

1870

Education Act, compulsory primary education until the age of 11; 1p fee per day for schooling.

Married Women’s Property Act gives women the right to earn and keep money for themselves.

1871

Begin regularly photographing prisoners.

1873

Stock market crashes, leading to the Long Depression in Britain, Europe and the United States through 1879 (known as the Great Depression until the 1930s)

1877

Telephones become available.

1878

First electric street lighting in London.

1881

Electric light first used domestically.

Start of the Fenian dynamite campaign, which sets off bombs in Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, and around London through 1885.

1882 - 1914

Bombardment of Alexandria; occupation of Egypt by Britain follows officially until 1914, though forces remain for several decades thereafter.

1884

Third Reform Act, granting suffrage to agricultural workers.

1885

Printing of Volume 2 of Das Kapital; Volume One in English in 1886.

1887

Golden Jubilee, celebration of 50th anniversary of Victoria’s reign.

“Bloody Sunday”: police and guards called in to suppress demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.

1888

Jack the Ripper stalks London.

1889

First recorded influenza epidemic starts in Russia and spreads worldwide through 1890, killing 1 million people.

1890

First electric underground public railway line opens in December.

1891

Electrification of trams in England began in Leeds.

Education made free for every child.

1894

French anarchist Martial Bourdin sets out to destroy the Royal Greenwich Observatory with a bomb but it detonates early, leading to his death.

The Tower Bridge opens for traffic.

1896

Speed limit for cars was increased from 4 to 20 mph.

1897

Diamond Jubilee: celebration of the 60th anniversary of Victoria’s reign.

1898

Hong Kong (Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory and the 99 year lease) Boxer Rebellion begins (ending in 1901).

1899

Hague Convention I

1901

Death of Queen Victoria at the age of 82.

Population of London reaches 6.6 million.

 

 

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