World History

c.1750 to c.1900



1755 Lisbon earthquake: The 1755 Lisbon earthquake nearly destroyed Portugal's capital city. It was one of the deadliest earthquakes in human history, followed and greatly disrupted the country’s colonial ambitions.

England's population boom: TThe population growth in Western Europe during the second half of the 18th century was partly a result of the introduction of new food staples from the New World. Crops like the potato, corn, and beans became staples of the European diet. England's population boom in the early nineteenth century provided more workers for newly developing factories. Large pockets of workers migrated to cities where factory work was concentrated, inducing the rate of industrialization and urban sprawl that characterizes the Industrial Revolution.

Irish Potato Famine: The Irish Potato Famine left Ireland decreased the Irish population by 25%. It is estimated that one million people died as a result of the famine, and another million emigrated because of the famine, which was caused by potato blight.

Rural manufacturing: The development of rural manufacturing, sometimes known as cottage industry, combined with technical innovation allowed Europe's population to boom during the eighteenth century, breaking its traditional population cycle.

Rotten borough: A "rotten" borough in the UK is one with a very small electorate that can easily be bribed and used to gain undue representation in the House of Commons. The Reform Act of 1832 disfranchised the 57 rotten boroughs in the United Kingdom, redistributing representation in Parliament to new population centers. The Ballot Act of 1872, which enacted secret ballots, made voter bribery impractical as there was no way of proving the people you'd bribed had actually voted for you or not.

Thomas Malthus: Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) believed that population growth was greater than the earth's ability to produce subsistence for all mankind (and that this precluded the possibility of a utopian society). Population growth, then, Malthus argued, will always be curbed by famine and disease. A reverend, Malthus believed that the dangers of population growth that precluded progress towards a utopian society were imposed upon man by God. Unlike many other 18th century European scholars, Malthus did not believe that society was improving, nor that it was theoretically perfectible.