19th-Century West (Members Only)

Digital History of the 19th-Century West

a key to global education: Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

WisdomMaps: The Future of the Past

Experience our digital history of the 19th-century West with WisdomMaps!


The 19th century was an era of scientific discovery and invention that accelerated in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, electricity, and metallurgy. This prepared the way for the technologies of the 20th century: electronics, the telegraph and Morse code, the first telephone call in 1876, and the first light bulb two that worked (after thousands of failed attempts).

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and spread to continental Europe, North America and Japan. The Victorian era was notorious for the use of child labor in factories and mines, as well as for strict modesty and rigid gender roles. Advances in medicine, anatomy, and disease prevention were partly responsible for rapidly accelerating population growth. Europe’s population doubled during the 19th century to more than 400 million. Railroads made for revolutionary advance in land transportation, and they fueled major urbanizations major urbanization movements worldwide. Numerous cities worldwide surpassed populations of a million or more during this century. London became the world’s largest city and capital of the British Empire, with nearly 7 million inhabitants by 1900. The vast expanses of interior Africa and Asia were explored during this century, and accurate and detailed maps of the globe became available by the 1890s. 

Liberalism became the pre-eminent reform movement in Europe, and slavery was greatly reduced around the world. Following a successful slave revolt in Haiti, Britain and France outlawed slavery, and Britain’s Slavery Abolition Act directed the Royal Navy to end the global slave trade. America’s 13th Amendment resulted from the northern victory in the Civil War that abolished slavery in the United States in 1865. In Brazil slavery was abolished in 1888, and serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861.

The 19th century also saw the rise of spectator and team sports in Britain and the United States. League football, rugby, baseball and other sports were developed, while the British Empire spread cricket to many different parts of the world. Women reflected the conservative values and fashions of the 19th century: their ankles were viewed to be scandalous.

That said, here’s our collection… please enjoy! When you’re done perusing a map, just close it and you’ll be back here.

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