timeline - 1870s

Prime ministers - William Gladstone (Liberal) 1868-74, Benjamin Disraeli (Conservative) 1874-80.

Lords Lieutenant - John Poyntz Spencer (5th Earl Spencer) 1868-74; James Hamilton (1st Duke of Abercorn) 1874-76; John Winston Spencer-Churchill (7th Duke of Marlborough) 1876-80.

Popes - Pius IX 1846-78; Leo XIII 1878-1903.


  • May-August - Red River expedition, Canada.

  • June 9 - Death of Charles Dickens.

  • July 18 - Pius IX declared papal infallibility.

  • July 19 - War declared by France on Prussia.

  • August 27 - Launch of the White Star liner, Oceanic, at Harland and Wolff, Belfast. She made her maiden voyage on the Liverpool New York route in 1871, taking 12 days for the crossing. Later followed by sisters, Atlantic, Baltic, and Republic.

  • September 2 - Napoleon III and 100,000 men surrendered at Sedan. Napoleon was deposed and a provisional government formed in Paris.

  • September 19 - Siege of Paris began.

  • September 20 The fall of Napoleon III allowed Victor Emmanuel to seize Rome, the last of the Papal states, and make it the capital of a united Italy. This action eliminated the temporal power of the Roman church. Pius IX refused to accept the loss of power and by his own declaration became a 'prisoner' in Rome. The issue was not resolved until the establishment of the Vatican as an independent state in 1929.

  • Disraeli's novel Lothair published.

  • Army Enlistment Act - The beginning of the Caldwell reforms. The term of enlistment was fixed at 12 years part of which was served in reserve. Prior to this enlistment was for life.

  • First 'Married Women's Property Act' - Allowed married women to keep up to 200 of their earnings.

  • Elementary Education Act - School boards established.

  • 1st Irish Land Act - Gave secure tenure for tenants and compensation for improvements to the land but failed to prevent unreasonable rent increases.

  • Home Government Association established in Dublin with the aim of promoting an Irish Parliament. It was opposed by Gladstone and banned but re-emerged in 1873 under different name.

  • December 17 - Maiden voyage of the Cunard Liner Parthia on the Liverpool New York route.


  • Jan 28 - Paris fell to Prussia.

  • Treaty of Versailles ends the war humiliation for France opens the way for a unified Germany.

  • Adolphe Thiers was named chief of the executive power in France but Paris refused to submit to his authority and the 'Commune of Paris' was formed. Second siege of Paris, April-May 1871, ended with the massacre of the Commune.

  • Napoleon III exiled to England. Alsace Lorraine, part of France, was seeded to Germany.

  • Looshai expedition, Bengal 1871-2.

  • Purchase of officer commissions in the army was ended and peacetime flogging in the navy was suspended, this was extended to include wartime flogging in 1879.

  • Criminal Law Amendment Act: made strikes almost impossible.


  • George Eliot 'Middlemarch' published in serialised parts between December 1871 and December 1872.

  • End of the Maori war in New Zealand (1863-72).

  • Army Localisation Act - Formation of linked infantry battalions and establishment of local depots but progress was very slow and opposed by the army C in C, the Duke of Cambridge.

  • Secret ballot introduced.

  • Licensing Act - Control of public houses by license, opening hours limited.


  • Second Ashanti war, 1873-4, (West Africa) Resulted in a treaty that effectively put Britain in control of much of West Africa.

  • Irish Home Rule League established.

  • Commissioning of HMS Devastation, the first mastless iron battleship. Her sisters, Thunderer (1877) and Dreadnought (1879) followed but the concept of mastless steam ships was not wholeheartedly accepted by the navy and it was to be many years before the experiment was repeated.


  • Duffla expedition.

  • Parliament dissolved over the issue of expenditure on the army and navy, the question of army reform, a defeat in the commons over the Irish universities, and a by-election defeat. Edward Cardwell wanted to reduce expenditure in the army by cutting the colonial service, cutting the stores, and reducing the size of the infantry battalion cadres. The press wanted the abolition of purchase, flogging, and branding. They drew unfavorable comparisons with the Prussian army. Cardwell retired from politics and was granted a peerage.

  • Conservatives under Disraeli won the general election with a majority of 83 seats, effectively the beginning of the modern two party system.

  • Public Worship Regulation Act: introduced by Disraeli banned some ritual practices within the church that were seen as too Catholic (ie the church was seen a too 'high'), created resentment and martyrs. Charles Lowder, a ritualist, was the first secular priest to be known as 'father', a practice later adopted by the Roman Catholic church.


  • Feb - France became a republic.

  • Perak campaign, Malaya 1875-6 - The Pangkor Treaty of 1874 allowed Britain to send its first resident, James W.W. Birch to take charge of the state. He set about reforming many government matters, particularly revenue and slavery, but this was resented by the ruling classes, including the Sultan, and Birch was murdered in 1874. British troops were sent to restore order and punish the guilty.

  • Construction of the Statue of Liberty begun in France.

  • Race riots in Barbados.

  • Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act: legalised peaceful picketing.

  • The British government purchased the Egyptian share of the Suez Canal Company for 4m giving them control of the company and the canal. At the time 80% of canal traffic was British.


  • Victoria created Empress of India.

  • First telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.

  • Merchant Shipping Act - Inspired by Samuel Plimsoll to improve the safety of ships and outlaw overloading. It was not until 1890 that the act was applied as intended.

  • April - Escape of the Fenian prisoners form Western Australia.


  • Debut of Swan Lake.

  • First cricket test match between England and Australia played in Melbourne, Australia won (the ashes test was not played until 1882).

  • Edison's phonograph.

  • Jowakhi campaign 1877-8.

  • Ninth Kaffir war 1877-8.

  • Failure of the Potato crop in the west of Ireland 1877-9.


  • Feb 7 - Death of Pope Pius IX (he was beatified in 2000).

  • Indian troops sent to Malta in expectation of a war with Russia over the 'eastern question'.

  • Factory and Workshops Act - If employing more than 50 people factories were to be subject to inspection by government inspectors, previously inspectors had been employed by local authorities.


  • Zulu War - Napoleon Eugene, the last heir to the throne of France, is killed while on active service with the British army, ending any hope for the restoration of a French Monarchy.

  • Second Afghan War.

  • First successful trial of Edison's carbon filament light bulb.

  • Debut of 'The Pirates of Penzance'.

  • Captain Charles Boycott, the agent for Lord Erne in Mayo, came into conflict with the Land League of Michael Davit. This was the first act of the land wars and gave a new word to the English language.

Cronin Families of Cork - 1870s
2005 Michael Cronin
Last revision: 2 March 2005