The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate. (July 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Millennium: 2nd millennium
State leaders:
Categories: BirthsDeaths
Political boundaries at the beginning of year 1700
Political boundaries at the beginning of year 1700
Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, an iconic event of the French Revolution.
Storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789, an iconic event of the French Revolution.
Development of the Watt steam engine in the late 18th century was an important element in the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
Development of the Watt steam engine in the late 18th century was an important element in the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
The American Revolutionary War took place in the late 18th century.
The American Revolutionary War took place in the late 18th century.

The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 (MDCCI) to December 31, 1800 (MDCCC). During the 18th century, elements of Enlightenment thinking culminated in the American, French, and Haitian revolutions. During the century, slave trading and human trafficking expanded across the shores of the Atlantic, while declining in Russia,[1] China,[2] and Korea. Revolutions began to challenge the legitimacy of monarchical and aristocratic power structures, including the structures and beliefs that supported the slave trade. The British Industrial Revolution began, leading to radical changes in human society and the environment.

Western historians have occasionally defined the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 1715–1789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution, with an emphasis on directly interconnected events.[3][4] To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century[5] may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815[6] or even later.[7]

The period is also known as the "century of lights" or the "century of reason". In continental Europe, philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. For some, this dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though this was later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but in the wake of the French Revolution they feared loss of power and formed broad coalitions for counter-revolution.

The 18th century also marked the end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an independent state. Its semi-democratic government system was not robust enough to rival the neighboring monarchies of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the Austrian Empire which divided the Commonwealth territories between themselves, changing the landscape of Central Europe and politics for the next hundred years.

The Ottoman Empire experienced an unprecedented period of peace and economic expansion, taking part in no European wars from 1740 to 1768. As a consequence, the empire was not exposed to Europe's military improvements of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). The Ottoman Empire military may have fallen behind and suffered defeats against Russia in the second half of the century. In Southwest and Central Asia, Nader Shah led successful military campaigns and major invasions, which indirectly led to the founding of the Durrani Empire.

European colonization of the Americas and other parts of the world intensified and associated mass migrations of people grew in size as the Age of Sail continued. European colonization intensified in present-day Indonesia, where the Dutch East India Company gained more power from the Mataram Sultanate. Mainland Southeast Asia would be embroiled in the Konbaung-Ayutthaya Wars and the Tay Son rebellion, while in East Asia, the century marked the High Qing era and the continual seclusion policies of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the French and Indian War in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India, especially Bengal; they later fought in the Anglo-Mysore Wars by the end of the century. However, Britain lost many of its North American colonies after the American Revolution and Indian Wars. In North America, the defeat of the British resulted in the formation of an independent United States. Great Britain laid claim to the continent of Australia under the justification of terra nullius and began its colonisation from 1788 onwards.

In the Indian subcontinent, the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb marked the end of medieval India. It marked the beginning of modern India and the era of extensive European intervention in the subcontinent, coinciding with Maratha expansion. The victory of the British East India Company over the Nawab of Bengal and their French allies[8] in the Battle of Plassey caused the deindustrialization of Bengal. The British invasion expanded to cover much of South Asia. French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte formed one of the Franco-Indian alliances with the major power of the Kingdom of Mysore,[9] governed by Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali.[10][11]


For a chronological guide, see Timeline of the 18th century.


Europe at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700
Europe at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700
The Battle of Poltava in 1709 turned the Russian Empire into a European power.
The Battle of Poltava in 1709 turned the Russian Empire into a European power.
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough


Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.
Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Main articles: Timeline of historic inventions § 18th century, and Timeline of scientific discoveries § 18th century

The Spinning Jenny

Literary and philosophical achievements

Musical works


  1. ^ Volkov, Sergey. Concise History of Imperial Russia.
  2. ^ Rowe, William T. China's Last Empire.
  3. ^ Anderson, M. S. (1979). Historians and Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1715–1789. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822548-5. OCLC 185538307.
  4. ^ Ribeiro, Aileen (2002). Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe 1715–1789 (revised ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09151-9. OCLC 186413657.
  5. ^ Baines, Paul (2004). The Long 18th Century. London: Arnold. ISBN 978-0-340-81372-0.
  6. ^ Marshall, P. J., ed. (2001). The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume II: The Eighteenth Century (Oxford History of the British Empire). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 978-0-19-924677-9. OCLC 174866045., "Introduction" by P. J. Marshall, page 1
  7. ^ O'Gorman, Frank (1997). The Long Eighteenth Century: British Political and Social History 1688–1832 (The Arnold History of Britain Series). A Hodder Arnold Publication. ISBN 978-0-340-56751-7. OCLC 243883533.
  8. ^ Campbell, John; Watts, William (1760). Memoirs of the Revolution in Bengal, anno Dom. 1757. A. Millar, London.
  9. ^ Parthasarathi, Prasannan (2011), Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600–1850, Cambridge University Press, p. 207, ISBN 978-1-139-49889-0
  10. ^ Allana, Gulam (1988). Muslim political thought through the ages: 1562–1947 (2 ed.). Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania: Royal Book Company. p. 78. ISBN 9789694070919. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Bonaparte and Islam · Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  12. ^ "War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–1714". Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  13. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 82
  14. ^ Historic uk – heritage of britain accommodation guide (2007-05-03). "The history of Scotland – The Act of Union 1707". Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  15. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 84
  16. ^ "Welcome to Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to History". 1910-01-31. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  17. ^ "List of Wars of the Crimean Tatars". Archived from the original on 12 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  18. ^ "Len Milich: Anthropogenic Desertification vs 'Natural' Climate Trends". 1997-08-10. Archived from the original on 2012-02-11. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  19. ^ Wadsworth, Alfred P.; Mann, Julia De Lacy (1931). The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600–1780. Manchester University Press. p. 433. OCLC 2859370.
  20. ^ "A guide to Scottish clans". Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  21. ^ "Saudi Arabia – The Saud Family and Wahhabi Islam". Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  22. ^ "History". Columbia University.
  23. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 102
  24. ^ "Sufism in the Caucasus". Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  25. ^ "Yellow Fever Attacks Philadelphia, 1793". EyeWitness to History. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  26. ^ Riedel S (2005). "Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination". Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 18 (1): 21–5. doi:10.1080/08998280.2005.11928028. PMC 1200696. PMID 16200144.
  27. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 106
  28. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Inventions, Encyclopædia Britannica Archived August 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. (1998) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p 146 ISBN 978-0-471-29198-5

Further reading