Prime ministers - William
Gladstone (Liberal) 1880-5, Lord Salisbury 1885, Gladstone
(Liberal)1886, Salisbury (Conservative) 1886-92.
Lords Lieutenant - Francis
Thomas de Grey Cowper (7th Earl Cowper) 1880-82; John
Poyntz Spencer (5th Earl Spencer) 1882-85; Henry Howard
Molyneux Herbert (4th Earl of Carnarvon) 1885-6; John
Campbell Hamilton-Gordon (7th Earl of Aberdeen) Feb-Aug
1886; Charles Stewart Vane-Tempest-Stewart (6th Marquess
of Londonderry) 1886-1889; Lawrence Dundas (3rd Earl of
April: Cecil Rhodes and others
established the De Beers Mining Company.
General Election: Liberal 354,
Conservative 238, Home Rule 65. Gladstone became prime minister but
the Irish Home Rule party under Parnell made significant gains. The
question of 'Irish Home Rule' was to dominate politics in the 1880s.
The House of Commons was lit with
incandescent electric light. Gaslight remained the norm for most.
Lew Wallace, 'Ben Hur'.
Dostoevsky, 'The Brothers
Gilbert & Sullivan, 'The
Pirates of Penzance'.
Dec 1880 - Mar 1881 first Boer
war: The annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 was opposed by the
majority Boers. In December 1880 the restoration of the Transvaal
Republic was proclaimed and the war started. The British forces were
outnumbered and had underestimated their opponents. They were forced
into an armistice in March 1881 that saw the recognition of an
independent Transvaal (later the South African Republic) but with
conditions that gave Britain control over their foreign relations.
Census: In Ireland the population
was a little over 5 million, a 21% decline since 1851.
The 2nd Irish Land Act:
Allowed purchase of land by tenants with 75% of the price to be
advanced by the Irish Land Commission and to be paid back over 35
years at 5%, only 1000 tenants in all Ireland were in a position to
take advantage. Rents could be taken for review by a new Land Court,
this was widely used resulting in an overall drop in rents.
D'Oyly Carte, The Savoy Theatre was built introducing electric light to the theatre.
The socialist organisation 'The Democratic Federation' was founded, William Morris was one
of its more prominent members. This and a number of offshoots were
destined to break up and reform many times but despite their
fractious nature this was the beginning of an intellectual socialism
although it had little to do with the working classes.
Flogging abolished in the British army
Tzar Alexander II assassinated
Alliance signed between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.
June: riots in Alexandria saw the
army sent to Egypt for the protection of British interests (ie the
canal). The campaign itself proved to be one of the most successful
of the Victorian period but the aftermath saw the rise of the Mahdi
in the Sudan and the need to maintain a permanent British army in
Egypt. It was to be 1956 before they were finally thrown out.
Tchaikovsky '1812 Overture'.
Maxim machine gun invented.
Phoenix Park murders. Lord
Frederick Cavendish, the chief secretary of Ireland, and an under
secretary, TH Burke, were hacked to death with surgical knives by a
gang known as the 'Invincibles'.
George Sims 'How The Poor
Live'. First published in serialized form and later as a book.
Written in the form of a travel narrative, it takes the reader
through the slums of Victorian England and contrasts their lives
with those of the rich.
February: Richard Wagner died
Fenian bombs exploded in London and Glasgow
Construction of Panama Canal began by French interests but the company was liquidated in
1889 and the lease on the land eventually sold to the United States.
March: Karl Marx died and was buried in Highgate cemetery.
May: Brooklyn Bridge was opened in New York.
August: eruption of Krakatoa.
January: General Gordon sent to
the Sudan but without any troops to back him up. On his arrival he
said 'I come without soldiers but with God on my side to redress
the evils of the Sudan'. He became trapped in Khartoum.
Large scale production of dynamite
began (there had been some technical difficulties to overcome after
the initial invention of 1879).
Parsons steam turbine patented. At
first it was used for electricity generation. The Admiralty was slow
to pick up the new invention and it was not until Turbinia of 1897
that they found it could no longer be ignored.
July: the statue of Liberty was gifted by France to the United States.
Reform act increased the electorate from about 3 to 5 million voters.
1884 First Labour day parade, New York City 5 September
Cecil Rhodes annexed Bechunanaland.
Debut of both Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno (as an adult).
January: The relief column to
Khartoum failed and General Gordon was killed when the city fell on
the 26th. In Britain he was seen as a martyr and
Gladstone was blamed for the disaster.
The Liberal party was split over
many issues but principally the Irish question.. Gladstone resigned
and in June the Conservative party formed a minority Government
under Lord Salisbury. An election followed in November and, largely
because of the increased franchise, the Liberal party won the
largest vote (Liberal 334, Conservative 250, Irish 86) but a
coalition with the Irish was needed to guarantee a majority in
Parliament. Just after the election Gladstone was converted to the
cause of Irish home rule causing yet another split in the Liberal
August: Karl Benz drove his first
motor car around the Neckar Valley. Gottllieb Daimler built a wooden
motorcycle the same year although the major advance in internal
combustion engines did not cone until 1892 when Daimler invented the
The language Esperanto was invented.
June: Wilhelm II became emperor of Germany.
Home Rule bill defeated in the
Commons by 30 votes, Gladstone resigned again and Salisbury became
prime minister in August.
Riots in London following a slump in trade.
Contagious Diseases Act repealed.
This act was an anti prostitution measure seen by many as being an
imposition on womens rights.
June: Victoria's golden jubilee
Rider Haggard 'She'.
November 13, Bloody Sunday. During
a pro Irish demonstration in London 26 people were badly injured.
Criminal Law and Procedure Act,
1887: Introduced to curtail the activities of the Land League in
Ireland. Boycotting, resisting eviction, and intimidation carried
heavy penalties. Many were arrested.
July: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 'Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet'.
August: Mary Anne (Polly) Nichols
was murdered in Whitechapel, East London, the first victim of Jack
the Ripper. In all there were five victims, the last being Mary
Kelly in November.
Heinrich Hertz produced the first
Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear. He entered an asylum in 1889.
The Paris exhibition. A new tower
(the Eiffel Tower) was built from wrought iron especially for the
The Naval Defence
Act lead to a large increase in spending on the Navy and the
beginning of a European arms race that was to culminate in the Great
The Eastman company's first production of celluloid film.
Joseph Conrad 'Lord Jim'.
Late summer: A dock strike in
London lasted five weeks, Cardinal Manning was instrumental in
Christmas eave: Captain William
O'Shea filed for divorce citing Parnell as co-respondent. The
subsequent trial in November 1890 lead to the fall of Parnell and
the collapse of the Irish party. After Parnell was labeled an
adulterer Cardinal Manning persuaded the Irish Bishops to withdraw
their support, without the support of the church the Irish party
could not survive. First the party split leaving Parnell with only
28 MPs out of the 86 he had after the election, later three
by-elections were lost further reducing the numbers. Parnell married
Katherine O'Shea in June 1890 but died in October the same year.