The 1810s (pronounced "eighteen-tens") was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1810, and ended on December 31, 1819.

Battle of WaterlooFrench invasion of RussiaTheory of ColoursGas lightingStethoscopeGreat Comet of 1811War of 1812Year Without a Summer1815 eruption of Mount Tambora
From top left, clockwise: the Battle of Waterloo signified the end of Napoleon's conquests, as it sealed the downfall of his empire and brought his campaigns to an end; The French invasion of Russia and the subsequent retreat from Russia's harsh winter proved to be a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, as food shortages and drastic supply loss led to catastrophic French losses from which Napoleon would never recover; The stethoscope was invented – its first prototype made by Frenchman René Laennec could be shown here. His invention proved to be an innovation that changed the course of medical diagnosis and overall medicinal sciences; Mount Tambora's eruption in 1815 – the world's largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – inflicted over 90,000 human deaths, a cycle of famines, and a series harsh winters over the next few years, in a period that would be known as the Year Without a Summer. Its global impact had arguably made its eruption the world's most influential –and worst– volcanic eruption on contemporary history; - War of 1812 was fought over Canada and the U.S, and largely involved the struggle between remnants of British imperialism on the continent, with the then-fledgeling nationalist movements that sprung as the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War and the United States' independence. It is widely considered as a spillover political conflict of the Napoleonic Wars; The Great Comet of 1811 made a brief appearance. Observations made by amateur scientists evolved modern-day understanding of comets, and eventually forged a way for astronomy knowledge; Theory of Colours was first published. The German-made theory helped inspire countless of visual arts and design concepts in the future, as well as nurturing further understanding on colours; The gas light becomes widely implemented into urban systems – mainly as streetlights – after its inception on the 1800s.

The decade was opened with a very hostile political climate around the world. Napoleon was invading France's neighbours in efforts to build a French Empire, causing a chain of global-scaled conflicts known as the Napoleonic Wars. Here, France's Napoleonic empire saw its rise and fall through events such as Napoleon's attempts to conquer Russia, the War of 1812 (spillover to America), and the Battle of Waterloo (Napoleon's ultimate defeat). Imperialism began to encroach towards African and Asian territories through trade, as the United States saw mass-scaled migration that headed westward towards the American frontier (mostly through the opening of the Oregon Trail.)

Politics and wars


Napoleonic Wars

Napoleonic départements of the French Empire at its height in 1812.

In 1810, the French Empire reached its greatest extent. On the continent, the British and Portuguese remained restricted to the area around Lisbon and to besieged Cadiz. Napoleon married Marie-Louise, an Austrian Archduchess, with the aim of ensuring a more stable alliance with Austria and of providing the Emperor with an heir. As well as the French Empire, Napoleon controlled the Swiss Confederation, the Confederation of the Rhine, the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Italy. Territories allied with the French included: the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Naples, the Principality of Lucca and Piombino, and Napoleon's former enemies, Prussia and Austria. Denmark–Norway also allied with France in opposition to Great Britain and Sweden in the Gunboat War.

Charles Minard's graph showing the diminishing strength of the Grande Armée during the French invasion of Russia in 1812

The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point, which reduced the French and allied invasion forces (the Grande Armée) to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics, as it dramatically weakened the previously dominant French position on the continent. After the disastrous invasion of Russia, a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and a number of German States, and the rebels in Spain and Portugal united to battle France in the War of the Sixth Coalition. Two-and-a-half million troops fought in the conflict and the total dead amounted to as many as two million. This era included the battles of Smolensk, Borodino, Lützen, Bautzen, and the Dresden. It also included the epic Battle of Leipzig in October, 1813 (also known as the Battle of Nations), which was the largest battle of the Napoleonic wars, which drove Napoleon out of Germany.

Battle of Waterloo

The final stage of the War of the Sixth Coalition, the defense of France in 1814, saw the French Emperor temporarily repulse the vastly superior armies in the Six Days Campaign. Ultimately, the Allies occupied Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate and restoring the Bourbons. Napoleon was exiled to Elba. Also in 1814, Denmark–Norway was defeated by Great Britain and Sweden and had to cede the territory of mainland Norway to the King of Sweden at the Treaty of Kiel.

Napoleon shortly returned from exile, landing in France on March 1, 1815, marking the War of the Seventh Coalition, heading toward Paris while the Congress of Vienna was sitting. On March 13, seven days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw; four days later the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule.[1] This set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, the restoration of the French monarchy for the second time and the permanent exile of Napoleon to the distant island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.

Spanish American wars of independence


Spain in the 1810s was a country in turmoil. Occupied by Napoleon from 1808 to 1814, a massively destructive "war of independence" ensued, driven by an emergent Spanish nationalism. Already in 1810, the Caracas and Buenos Aires juntas declared their independence from the Bonapartist government in Spain and sent ambassadors to the United Kingdom. The British blockade against Spain had also moved most of the Latin American colonies out of the Spanish economic sphere and into the British sphere, with whom extensive trade relations were developed. The remaining Spanish colonies had operated with virtual independence from Madrid after their pronouncement against Joseph Bonaparte.

The Spanish government in exile (Cortes of Cádiz) created the first modern Spanish constitution. Even so, agreements made at the Congress of Vienna (where Spain was represented by Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marquis of Labrador) would cement international support for the old, absolutist regime in Spain.

King Ferdinand VII, who assumed the throne after Napoleon was driven out of Spain, refused to agree to the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 on his accession to the throne in 1814. The Spanish Empire in the New World had largely supported the cause of Ferdinand VII over the Bonapartist pretender to the throne in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. When Ferdinand's rule was restored, these juntas were cautious of abandoning their autonomy, and an alliance between local elites, merchant interests, nationalists, and liberals opposed to the abrogation of the Constitution of 1812 rose up against the Spanish in the New World.

The victory of General José de San Martín over Spanish forces at the Battle of Chacabuco, 12 February 1817

The arrival of Spanish forces in the American colonies began in 1814, and was briefly successful in restoring central control over large parts of the Empire. Simón Bolívar, the leader of revolutionary forces in New Granada, was briefly forced into exile in British-controlled Jamaica, and independent Haiti. In 1816, however, Bolivar found enough popular support that he was able to return to South America, and in a daring march from Venezuela to New Granada (Colombia), he defeated Spanish forces at the Battle of Boyacá in 1819, ending Spanish rule in Colombia. Venezuela was liberated June 24, 1821, when Bolivar destroyed the Spanish army on the fields of Carabobo on the Battle of Carabobo. Argentina declared its independence in 1816 (though it had been operating with virtual independence as a British client since 1807 after successfully resisting a British invasion). Chile was retaken by Spain in 1814, but lost permanently in 1817 when an army under José de San Martín, for the first time in history, crossed the Andes Mountains from Argentina to Chile, and went on to defeat Spanish royalist forces at the Battle of Chacabuco in 1817.

Spain would also lose Florida to the United States during this decade. First, in 1810, the Republic of West Florida declared its independence from Spain, and was quickly annexed by the United States. Later, in 1818, the United States invaded Florida, resulting in the Adams-Onís Treaty, wherein Spain ceded the rest of Florida to the United States.

In 1820, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Central America still remained under Spanish control. Although Mexico had been in revolt in 1811 under Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, resistance to Spanish rule had largely been confined to small guerrilla bands in the countryside. King Ferdinand was still dissatisfied with the loss of so much of the Empire and resolved to retake it. A large expedition was assembled in Cadiz with the aim of reconquest. However, Ferdinand's plans would be disrupted by Liberal Revolution, and Ferdinand was eventually forced to give up all of the New World colonies, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico.

War of 1812


In 1812, the United States declared war on Britain in the War of 1812. The U.S. reasons for war included the humiliation in the "Chesapeake incident" of 1807, continued British impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, restrictions on trade with France, and arming hostile American Indians in Ohio and the western territories.[2] United States President James Madison signed a declaration of war on June 18, 1812.

The United States conducted two failed invasion attempts in 1812, first by General William Hull across the Detroit River into what is now Windsor, Ontario, and a second offensive at the Niagara peninsula. A major American success came in 1813, when the American Navy destroyed the British fleet on Lake Erie, and forced the British and their American Indian allies to retreat back toward Niagara.[3] They were intercepted and destroyed by General William Henry Harrison at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813. Tecumseh, the leader of the tribal confederation, was killed, and his Indian coalition disintegrated.[4]

At sea, the powerful Royal Navy blockaded much of the coastline, conducting frequent raids. The most famous episode was a series of British raids on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, including an attack on Washington that resulted in the British burning of the White House, the Capitol, the Navy Yard, and other public buildings, in the "Burning of Washington" in 1814.

Once Napoleon was defeated in 1814, France and Britain became allies and Britain ended the trade restrictions and the impressment of American sailors. Running out of reasons for war and stuck in a military stalemate, the two countries signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. News of the peace treaty took two months to reach the U.S., during which fighting continued. In this interim, the British made one last major invasion, attempting to capture New Orleans, but were decisively defeated with very heavy losses by General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. The ending of the war opened a long era of peaceful relations between the United States and the British Empire.

1804–1813 Russo-Persian War


The 1804–1813 Russo-Persian War was one of the many wars between the Persian Empire and Imperial Russia, and was well underway at the beginning of the decade. In 1810, the Persians scaled up their efforts late in the war, declaring a holy war on Imperial Russia. However, Russia's superior technology and tactics ensured a series of strategic victories. Even when the French were in occupation of the Russian capital Moscow, Russian forces in the south were not recalled but continued their offensive against Persia, culminating in Pyotr Kotlyarevsky's victories at Aslanduz and Lenkoran, in 1812 and 1813 respectively. Upon the Persian surrender, the terms of the Treaty of Gulistan ceded the vast majority of the previously disputed territories to Imperial Russia. This led to the region's once-powerful khans being decimated and forced to pay homage to Russia.

Concert of Europe

National boundaries of Europe as set by the Congress of Vienna, 1814.

By 1815, Europe had been almost constantly at war. During this time, the military conquests of France had resulted in the spread of liberalism throughout much of the continent, resulting in many states adopting the Napoleonic code. Largely as a reaction to the radicalism of the French Revolution,[5] the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars resolved to suppress liberalism and nationalism, and revert largely to the status quo of Europe prior to 1789.[6]

Congress Vienna, Jean Godefroy – Jean-Baptiste Isabey

The result was the Concert of Europe, also known as the "Congress System". It was the balance of power that existed in Europe from 1815 until the early 20th century. Its founding members were the United Kingdom, Austrian Empire, Russian Empire and Kingdom of Prussia, the members of the Quadruple Alliance responsible for the downfall of the First French Empire; in time France became established as a fifth member of the concert. At first, the leading personalities of the system were British foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh, Austrian chancellor Klemens Wenzel, Prince von Metternich and Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

The Kingdom of Prussia, Austrian Empire and Russian Empire formed the Holy Alliance with the expressed intent of preserving Christian social values and traditional monarchism.[7] Every member of the coalition promptly joined the Alliance, save for the United Kingdom.

Among the meetings of the Powers in the latter part of the 1810s were the Congresses of Vienna (1814–1815), Aix-la-Chappelle (1818), and Carlsbad (1819).

Other political events









  • 1810: Amadou Lobbo initiates his jihad in present-day Mali.
  • 1810: The Battle of Vieux Grand Port (Great Old Port) in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of the Island of Mauritius, was the only naval victory won by Napoleon. This battle has very often been ignored by scholars, but was of great importance for the control of the Indian Ocean as a trade route between Europe and the East.
  • March 1, 1811 – Citadel Massacre: Egyptian ruler Mohammed Ali kills the last Mamluk leaders.
  • 1813: Following the death of his father Wossen Seged, Sahle Selassie arrives at the capital Qundi before his other brothers, and is made Méridazmach of Shewa.
  • 1816: Banjul, capital of the Gambia, is founded as a trading post, and named Bathurst.
  • August 27, 1816 – Bombardment of Algiers: Various European Allie ships force the Dey of Algiers to free Christian slaves.
  • 1818: Shaka starts to rule.
  • Mtetwa Empire Expansion

North America

Aug. 15: Alabama Territory new.
Dec. 10: Mississippi statehood.

South America




Trading companies




Slavery, Serfdom and Labor






Science and technology

Goethe publishes Theory of Colours




"Enterprise on her fast trip to Louisville, 1815"

The 1810s continued a trend of increasing commercial viability of steamboats in North America, following the early success of Robert Fulton and others in the preceding years. In 1811 the first in a continuously operating line of river steamboats left the dock at Pittsburgh to steam down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and on to New Orleans.[9] Inventor John Stevens' boat, the Juliana, began operation as the first steam-powered ferry October 11, 1811, with service between New York, and Hoboken, New Jersey. John Molson's PS Accommodation was the first steamboat on the St. Lawrence and in Canada.[10] Unlike Fulton, Molson did not show a profit. Molson had also two paddle steamboats "Swiftsure" of 1811 and "Malsham" of 1813 with engines by B&W.[11] The experience of these vessels, especially that they could now offer a regular service, being independent of wind and weather, helped make the new system of propulsion commercially viable, and as a result its application to the more open waters of the Great Lakes was next considered. That idea went on hiatus due to the War of 1812.

In a 25-day trip in 1815, the Enterprise further demonstrated the commercial potential of the steamboat with a 2,200-mile voyage from New Orleans to Pittsburgh.[12][13] In 1817, a consortium in Sackets Harbor, New York, funded the construction of the first US steamboat, Ontario, to run on Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes, beginning the growth of lake commercial and passenger traffic.[14]

The first commercially successful steamboat in Europe, Henry Bell's Comet of 1812, started a rapid expansion of steam services on the Firth of Clyde, and within four years a steamer service was in operation on the inland Loch Lomond, a forerunner of the lake steamers still gracing Swiss lakes. On the Clyde itself, within ten years of Comet's start in 1812 there were nearly fifty steamers, and services had started across the Irish Sea to Belfast and on many British estuaries. P.S."Thames", ex "Argyle" was the first seagoing steamer in Europe, having steamed from Glasgow to London in May 1815.[15] P.S."Tug", the first tugboat, was launched by the Woods Brothers, Port Glasgow, on November 5, 1817; in the summer of 1817 she was the first steamboat to travel round the North of Scotland to the East Coast.[16]

Karl Drais' laufmaschine

The first steamship credited with crossing the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe was the American ship SS Savannah, though she was actually a hybrid between a steamship and a sailing ship. The SS Savannah left the port of Savannah, Georgia, on May 22, 1819, arriving in Liverpool, England, on June 20, 1819; her steam engine having been in use for part of the time on 18 days (estimates vary from 8 to 80 hours).



Other transportation


Natural events


Year Without a Summer

April 5–April 12: Mount Tambora explodes, changing climate.
  • April 5–April 12, 1815 – Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies blows its top explosively during an eruption, killing upwards of 92,000 and propelling thousands of tons of aerosols (Sulfide gas compounds) into the upper atmosphere (stratosphere). The following year (1816) becomes known as "Year Without a Summer", as the high level gases reflect sunlight and cause the widespread cooling (known as a volcanic winter) and heavy rains, snows in June and July in the northern hemisphere, and widespread crop failures.





Lord Byron, regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential, wrote his most well-known work during this decade. Amongst Byron's works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll go no more a roving, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan.

Other events in literature:




  • 1818: Old Vic founded (as Royal Coburg Hall).




Elgin Marbles displayed.









Other events



  1. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David p. 59
  2. ^ Wood, Empire of Liberty (2009) ch 18
  3. ^ Heidler and Heidler, Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, pp 290-93
  4. ^ Hickey, War of 1812 p. 183
  5. ^ Wood, Empire of Liberty (2009), pg. 329.
  6. ^ Wood, Empire of Liberty (2009), pg 330.
  7. ^ Spahn, M. (1910). Holy Alliance. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from New Advent.
  8. ^ a b c "An 1820 Claim to Congress: Alabama Territory : 1817", The Intruders, TNGenNet Inc., 2001, quick webpage: TN-537[permanent dead link].
  9. ^ [1] Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Canadian Encyclopedia", 2010.
  11. ^ Boulton & Watt Engine Order Book, Birmingham Public Library, England.
  12. ^ Western Courier [Louisville, Ky.], 1 June 1815: "Arrived in this port, in 25 days from New-Orléans, the Steam-Boat Enterprize, capt. SHRIEVE. The celerity and safety with which this boat descends and ascends the currents of these mighty waters, the improvement of the navigation of which is so advantageous to the western world, must be equally interesting to the farmer and the merchant. The facility and convenience of the passage, in ascending the rivers, are such as to give a decided preference to this mode of navigation, while the size and construction of the boat entitles it to all the advantages which the Ætna and Vesuvius have in vain attempted to monopolize over the free waters of our common country."
  13. ^ American Telegraph [Brownsville, Pa.], 5 July 1815: "Arrived at this port on Monday last, the Steam Boat Enterprize, Shreve, of Bridgeport, from New Orleans, in ballast, having discharged her cargo at Pittsburgh. She is the first steam boat that ever made the voyage to the Mouth of the Mississippi and back. She made the voyage from New Orleans to this port, in fifty four days, twenty days on which were employed in loading and unloading freight at different towns on the Mississippi and Ohio, so that she was only thirty four days in active service, in making her voyage, which our readers will remember must be performed against powerful currents, and is upwards of two thousand two hundred miles in length."
  14. ^ Barlow Cumberland Archived 2005-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, A Century of Sail and Steam on the Niagara River, 1911, accessed 20 August 2010
  15. ^ John Kennedy, "The History of Steam Navigation" Liverpool,1903.
  16. ^ A.I.Bowman, "Swifts & Queens", Strathkelvin, 1983.
  17. ^ Steinberg, Michael. "The Symphony: a listeners guide". pp. 44–47. Oxford University Press, 1995.