Positivism, Darwinism become influential
Religious explanations for social hierarchy began to lose some of the predominance they had enjoyed for centuries, as middle-class intellectuals began to look to science for new worldviews. Both positivism and Darwinism provided alternative secular explanations for the organization of society.
Realism in the arts
Following the disappointment of the failed revolutions of 1848 and the government censorship that accompanied it, writers and artists turned away from romanticism's idealized visions of workers and artisans to create a more realistic, at times even cynical, vision of society.
Victor Emmanuel declared king of a unified Italy
The kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia took the lead in making Italian unification a reality when Camillo di Cavour, prime minister to King Victor Emmanuel II, enlisted the help of Napoleon III against Austria. After some stunning victories, the French emperor pulled out, but with help from revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, who "freed" Sicily in the south and then moved his army northward, all of Italy, with the exception of Rome and Venetia, was united.
Abolition of serfdom in Russia
Following Russia's defeat in the Crimean War, the new Russian tsar Alexander II decided Russia needed to modernize to compete with the great powers. He initiated the "Great Reforms," one of which freed both private and government serfs. Former serfs, however, had to pay indemnities for the land they were granted, and the best land remained in the hands of the aristocracy. The actions of former serfs were severely limited by the village community, or mir. As a result of these restrictions, the abolition of serfdom had several drawbacks.
U.S. Civil War
As settlers moved westward into newly obtained territories, the question of whether slavery would be allowed in the western territories came to the fore in heated debate. In 1861, the southern states, which were heavily dependent on slavery, seceded from the Union when Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who favored abolition, was elected president. The war that followed ultimately resulted in a reunification of the states and the abolition of slavery. Lincoln was assassinated at the end of the war.
After being defeated by Prussia, Austria could no longer ignore the call for national autonomy coming from Hungary. The creation of a dual monarchy gave Hungary control over domestic affairs. Certain areas of governance, such as foreign affairs, were to be directed from Vienna
Women's colleges founded at Cambridge University
As women demanded more educational and professional opportunities, special colleges for women were established. Some believed that such education was important because it would allow women to enter into the professions, such as medicine and law. While a few women did this, more were employed in the new jobs made available by the expansion of state services, especially primary-school teaching. Many held that better-educated women made better wives and mothers.
Under the leadership of Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck, Prussia entered into a series of wars: with Denmark in 1864, with Austria in 1866, and with France in 1870. Easy victories established Prussia's military prominence and led to the unification of the German states under Prussian leadership.
German Empire proclaimed at Versailles
Prussian king William I was crowned emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles following the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This new German Empire, which excluded Austria, allowed for universal manhood suffrage while still maintaining the dominance of the landed nobles.
Self-governing Paris Commune established
Following the siege of Paris by the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian War, the citizens of Paris wanted greater autonomy from the central French government. When the military moved into the capital to disarm its citizens in March 1871, the population rebelled and declared the establishment of a self-governing commune. After a two-month standoff, followed by a week of bloody fighting, the French government regained control of the city. Thousands were killed, arrested, or deported, including most of the leaders of the working-class movement, which remained weakened for the following decade.
This war pitted Russia, which was trying to expand its influence in the Balkans and gain access to the Mediterranean, against Britain and France, which were acting to protect the Ottoman Empire. Austria remained neutral, thus breaking its alliance with Russia. The use of new technology, unprecedented public exposure to the war, and new advances in medical care all made this the first modern European war. The Russian defeat initiated an era of reforms, and the war effectively ended France's diplomatic isolation.
British-led forces suppress Indian Rebellion
Ruled, theoretically, by the East India Company, India in fact came increasingly under the control of British institutions and regulations. These regulations sometimes violated native customs and beliefs. When Hindu and Muslim soldiers were forced to grease their rifles with cow and pig fat, they mutinied. Once the mutiny was put down, Great Britain took direct control of the subcontinent with the Government of India Act of 1858.
Second Reform Bill in England
Led by Benjamin Disraeli, Conservatives in the British Parliament expanded the suffrage to include a greater percentage of adult males. This was not universal manhood suffrage, and women still did not have the vote, but the Second Reform Bill indicated Parliament's willingness to bring about gradual change.
Meiji Restoration begins in Japan
Wishing to escape western dominance, Japan restored the imperial dynasty and began a program of economic modernization based on the Western model and combined with a reinforcement of traditional Japanese values. This combination made Japan a powerful, modern nation by the late nineteenth century.