History Timelines


Chopin born; Schumann born; Paganini makes his first tour of Europe.


Goya begins his series of etchings The Disasters of War.

Liszt born


Austen’s Sense and Sensibility published.

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde founded. They promote concerts and set up a world-famous archive. Sadly, they reject Schubert from membership.


Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow seals the end of his imperial dreams; Charles Dickens born.

Wagner born; Verdi born; Royal Philharmonic Society founded in London.


Austria and Prussia declare war on France; Mexico declares independence from Spain.

Mälzel invents a metronome; John Field’s first three Nocturnes published.


Napoleon abdicates and is exiled to Elba. Austen Pride and Prejudice; Scott Waverley.

Schubert, aged 18, composes the song Erlkönig (‘Erl-King’) based on Goethe’s poem.


Napoleon escapes from Elba but is defeated at Battle of Waterloo; Otto von Bismarck born – he will later unify the German states and create the German Empire.

Premiere of Rossini’s comic opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (‘The Barber of Seville’), in Rome.


Book 1 of Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum, a collection of keyboard studies, published.


Jane Austen dies.


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein published – an early example of science fiction.

Beethoven starts composing his Missa solemnis, which he will complete in 1823; Schubert writes his Trout Quintet.


Schopenhauer’s influential philosophical work The World as Will and Representation first published; Scott Ivanhoe; John Ruskin born.


Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) born – she will later revolutionise nursing; Pushkin Ruslan and Ludmila; Shelley Prometheus Unbound; Keats publishes his final volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems.

Premiere of Weber’s Der Freischütz marks the start of German Romantic opera. 


War of Greek independence against Turkey begins (1821–30); building of Stockton–Darlington Railway begins (1821–25); control of Florida officially transferred from Spain to the USA; Dostoevsky born; Keats dies.

Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony; Beethoven’s last piano sonatas; Liszt’s public debut as a pianist, aged 11, in Vienna; Royal Academy of Music founded in London.


Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) born – he will revolutionise the prevention and treatment of diseases; Liberia founded as a colony for freed US slaves; Shelley dies; E.T.A. Hoffmann dies.

Schubert’s song-cycle Die schöne Mūllerin.


Bruckner born; Smetana born; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiered in Vienna.


National Gallery founded in London; Byron dies.


Trade unions, to protect workers’ pay and conditions, are becoming more widespread; Pushkin Boris Godunov.

Weber dies; Beethoven writes his last string quartets; Schubert sketches much of his Symphony No. 9; Mendelssohn writes his concert overture A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Beethoven dies and thousands attend his funeral; Schubert composes the song-cycle Die Winterreise.


Turkish fleet destroyed by French, Russian and British fleets at Navarino; Blake dies; Delacroix The Death of Sardanapalus.

Schubert dies and is buried next to Beethoven, as he had requested; Paganini’s fame as a violin virtuoso spreads as he tours Europe.


Goya dies; Ibsen born; Tolstoy born.

Rossini William Tell; Mendelssohn conducts J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion in Berlin (the first performance since Bach’s death in 1750), sparking a rediscovery of Bach’s music.


Joseph Henry designs an electric motor; William Burt patents first typewriter in America.

Premiere of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique – a symphony with a completely new romantic spirit; Mendelssohn writes The Hebrides (or ‘Fingal’s Cave’).


The July Revolution in France sees the Bourbon king, Charles X, replaced by King Louis Philippe I; Greece proclaimed as independent kingdom; Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens – the first to rely exclusively on steam power.

Bellini’s ‘bel canto’ opera Norma; Chopin moves to Paris from Poland.


Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.

Liszt hears Paganini play the violin and is determined to become as great a virtuoso himself, but on the piano.


The Reform Act in the UK brings changes to the electoral system and starts the process which will lead, eventually, to universal suffrage; Manet born; Goethe dies; Walter Scott dies.

Brahms born; Wagner begins his first opera, Die Feen.


Tennyson Poems.

First edition of music magazine Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, founded by Schumann and Friedrich Wieck – it will set new standards of musical criticism; Berlioz Harold in Italy.


Salvery abolished in the British Empire; William Morris born; Balzac Le Père Goriot.

Bellini dies; Saint-Saëns born; Donizetti Lucia di Lamermoor.


Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Vol. 1 explains to the French the nature of democratic government in the USA.

Liszt Album d’un voyageur; Schumann Fantasie in C; Chopin meets the novelist George Sand (the pen name of Amantine Lucile Dupin).


Charles Darwin returns from his voyage on HMS Beagle; Charles Barry commissioned to build the Houses of Parliament in London; Dickens The Pickwick Papers.

Berlioz writes his huge Grande Messe des morts (Requiem).


Victoria becomes Queen of Great Britain; Fröbel opens the first kindergarten (in Germany); Constable dies.

Liszt’s Transcendental Studies after Paganini published.


Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail make the first public demonstration of the electric telegraph; Chartist movement is active in Britain, campaigning for voting rights; Turner The Fighting Téméraire; Dickens Oliver Twist.

Mussorgsky born; Chopin 24 Preludes.


Daguerreotype introduced – the first reliable way of taking photographs, invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre; Cézanne born; Lermontov A Hero of Our Time.

Tchaikovsky born; Paganini dies; Schumann marries Clara Wieck and composes Romantic song-cycle Dichterliebe.


The penny post starts in Britain; Caspar David Friedrich dies; Claude Monet born; Émile Zola born; Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque.

Dvořák born; Chabrier born.


Renoir born.

Premiere of Glink’s opera Ruslan and Lyudmila; New York Philharmonic founded; Liszt’s piano pieces Années de pèlerinage published.


Ether first used as an anaesthetic; Mallarmé born; Gogol Dead Souls.

Premiere of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman; Grieg born.


Berlioz publishes a big textbook on instruments and orchestration; Rimsky-Korsakov born; Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.


In America Samuel Morse sends the first telegraphic message, or telegram; Turner Rain, Steam, and Speed; Verlaine born; Dumas The Three Muskateers.

Fauré born; Schumann Piano Concerto; premiere of Wagner’s Tannhäuser.


Beginning of Irish potato famine – it will lead to mass starvation and emigration to America.

Premiere of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Birmingham; premiere of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust in Paris.


Sewing machine invented.

Mendelssohn dies.


Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights published.

Donizetti dies; Wagner Lohengrin.


Revolutions throughout Europe; publication of Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; in Paris, Louis Philippe abdicates and Louis Napoleon is elected president; Gauguin born; Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founded.

Chopin dies; Wagner’s essay Art and Revolution published – one of several articles written when he was in exile, having supported the revolutions of 1848.


Hôtel de Ville completed in Paris; Dickens’s David Copperfield begins to be published in serial form.

Wagner’s Judaism in Music first published (under a pseudonym), attacking Jews in general and Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn in particular.


Public Libraries Act in Britain – local boroughs could establish free public libraries, giving everyone access to information and literature; Wordworth dies; Balzac dies; Maupassant born.

Verdi’s Rigoletto.


Great Exhibition in London showcases culture and industry from Britain and other countries; Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de bohème published – it will inspire Puccini, among others; Melville Moby-Dick.

Berlioz makes his third visit to London and gives a series of concerts.


Second Empire begins in France, Louis Napoleon now Emperor Napoleon III; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin raises awareness of the horrors of plantation slavery; Dickens’s novel Bleak House highlights the need for legal reform.

20-year-old Brahms arrives unnannounced at Schumann’s door – he impresses Clara and Robert, and ends up staying for weeks; Wagner begins music of Das Rheingold.


Crimean War begins (Britain, France and Turkey vs Russia); Van Gogh born.

Critic Eduard Hanslick writes On the Musically Beautiful in which he compares Brahms favourably with Wagner in what becomes a long-running rivalry; premiere of Liszt’s tone-poem Les Préludes.


Thoreau’s Walden promotes an admiration of nature, self-reliance, and the solitary life; completion of Paddington Station, London, designed by Brunel.

Liszt gives first performance of his own Piano Concerto No. 1, conducted by Berlioz.


Universal Exhibition in Paris; Longfellow Song of Hiawatha; Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass.

Schumann dies.


Flaubert’s Madame Bovary published – it is a prime example of literary realism and becomes very influential.

Wagner begins Tristan und Isolde; Elgar born.


Indian Rebellion – an unsuccessful uprising against the British East India Company.

Puccini born; Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld helps to develop and popularise operetta.


First communications by transatlantic telegraph cable.

Wagner completes Tristan und Isolde; Gounod’s Faust premiered.


Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

Mahler born.


Garibaldi conquers Naples and Sicily.

Nellie Melba born in Australia – she will become a great soprano and the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician; Royal Academy of Music founded in London.


American Civil War begins; Italy united as one kingdom; Tsar Alexander II emancipated (freed) Russia’s serfs.

Debussy born. Anton Rubinstein founds St Petersburg Conservatory.


Bizet’s opera The Pearl Fishers gets mixed reviews but prefigures the melodious quality of his later Carmen; premiere of Berlioz’s ambitious opera The Trojans but with big cuts to accommodate its scale – even then it impresses the audience.


Delacroix dies; Manet Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe.

Richard Strauss born.


Ludwig becomes King of Bavaria – he will become a devoted supporter, and financier, of Wagner; James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic radiation links together magnetism, electricity and light.

Sibelius born; Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde premiered in Munich.


American Civil War ends in victory for the North; Thirteenth Amendment bans slavery in the US; Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Premiere of Smetana’s comic opera The Bartered Bride in Prague; premiere of Offenbach’s La Vie parisienne in Paris. 


First lasting transatlantic telegraph cable laid by Brunel’s SS Great Eastern; Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment.

Wagner finishes writing Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.


Prussians head new North German Confederation; kingdom of Austria-Hungary founded; Ibsen Peer Gynt; Marx Das Kapital, Vol. 1.

Brahms completes A German Requiem, a milestone in German choral music; Rossini dies; Grieg Piano Concerto.


Alcott Little Women.

Berlioz dies; Gottschalk dies.


Tolstoy War and Peace; Suez Canal opens; Wyoming becomes first US state to grant women the vote (though the motivation had more to do with publicity than equality).

Premiere of Wagner’s Die Walküre in Munich and he finished writing Siegfried.


Franco-Prussian War begins – it will be over within a year, with France beaten the German Empire proclaimed under the Prussian king Wilhelm I.

Premiere of Verdi’s Aida in Cairo.


Franco-Prussian War ends with France’s defeat and the establishment of the German Empire under the Prussian king Wilhelm I; unification of Italy (the ‘Risorgimento’) is completed under Victor Emmanuel II and Rome becomes the capital city; Proust born.

Vaughan Williams born.


Monet Impression: Sunrise; George Eliot Middlemarch.

Rachmaninov born; Mussorgsky completes Boris Godunov.


Tolstoy Anna Karenina.

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for piano; Verdi Requiem; premiere of J. Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus; Schoenberg born.


First exhibition of Impressionist art, in Paris; construction of Charles Garnier’s Paris Opéra completed; Hardy Far from the Madding Crowd.

Ravel born; Bizet Carmen; Bizet dies; Grieg completes his music for Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt.


Brahms Symphony No. 1; first performance of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle, in the specially built theatre at Bayreuth.


Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone; Mallarmé L’Après-midi d’un faune.

Tchaikovsky Swan Lake; Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila.


Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.

Tchaikovsky completes his Fourth Symphony; Brahms Violin Concerto; Wagner begins Parsifal.


First use of electric street lighting.

Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin.


Serial publication of Dostoevsky’s final novel The Brothers Karamazov begins.

Offenbach dies; final version of Tchaikovsky’s overture Romeo and Juliet.


Natural History Museum, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, opens in London; Austria-Hungary and Germany form Dual Alliance; Edison produces the first electric light bulb; Flaubert dies.

Mussorgsky dies; Bartók born; Offenbach Les Contes d’Hoffmann premiere; Bartók born.


Tsar Alexander II, liberator of the serfs, is assassinated by terrorists, ending his attempted reforms in Russia; Picasso born; Dostoevsky dies; Henry James The Portrait of a Lady.

Stravinsky born; Kodály born; premiere of Parsifal.


Royal College of Music founded in London; Braque born; Trollope dies; Joyce born; Woolf born.

Wagner dies; Varèse born; Chabrier Espagña.


Manet dies; Japanese exhibition in Paris; Stevenson Treasure Island; Marx dies; Nietszche Also sprach Zarathustra.

Smetana dies; premiere of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony in Leipzig.


Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Modigliani born; Berlin conference decides colonial divisions in Africa.

Premiere of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 in Meiningen; premiere of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado in London; Berg born.


Completion of the world’s first skyscraper, in Chicago, with a steel frame; Benz and Daimler develop the internal combustion engine;  Hugo dies; D.H. Lawrence born;  Zola Germinal.

Saint-Saëns completes The Carnival of the Animals and Symphony No. 3 (‘Organ’); Liszt dies.


British Parliament rejects Irish Home Rule; eighth and final Impressionist exhibition; Stevenson Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; gold found in Transvaal; Hardy The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Verdi Otello; Fauré Requiem.


Strindberg Miss Julie; Chagall born; Schwitters born; Emile Berliner makes first records using discs rather than cylinders.

Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade; Satie Gymnopédies.


George Eastman perfects the Kodak Black camera – the first designed to use roll film; Heinrich Hertz demonstrates the existence of radio waves; T.S. Eliot born; Raymond Chandler born; Kipling Plain Tails from the Hills.

Successful premiere of 25-year-old Richard Strauss’s first tone poem, Don Juan.


Thomas Edison makes an experimental recording of Brahms at the piano – the spoken introduction is clear but the music is almost inaudible; Universal Exhibition in Paris, for which the Eiffel Tower has been built; Van Gogh Starry Night; Browning dies.

Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana.


Van Gogh dies; Schiele born; Ibsen Hedda Gabler; London’s first underground railway opens.

Carnegie Hall in New York opens; Prokofiev born.


Elementary education, now compulsory, is provided free in England and Wales; Hardy Tess of the d’Urbervilles; Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray; Max Ernst born; Melville dies; Rimbaud dies.

Premiere of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker; premiere of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci; Dvořák moves to America; Milhaud born.


Tennyson dies; G. and W. Grossmith The Diary of a Nobody.

Tchaikovsky leads premiere of his Symphony No. 6 and dies nine days later; Dvořák ‘New World’ Symphony; Sibelius Karelia; Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff.


Henry Ford builds his first car; women granted votes in New Zealand; Independent Labour Party founded in Britain; Miró born; Munch The Scream.

Chabrier dies; Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.


Accession of Tsar Nicholas II in Russia; Dreyfus wrongly convicted of treason in France; Aldous Huxley born; Kipling The Jungle Book.

Founding of the The Proms in London at Queen’s Hall under Henry Wood.


Lumière brothers invent the cinematograph – a motion picture film camera – and make their first film; Rodin The Burghers of Calais; Chekhov The Seagull.

Bruckner dies; Puccini La Bohème.


Nobel Prize established; Henri Becquerel discovers radioactivity; F. Scott Fitzgerald born; Housman A Shropshire Lad.

Brahms dies; Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.


Rostand Cyrano de Bergerac; Bram Stoker Dracula; Britain conquers Sudan.

R. Strauss Ein Heldenleben; Gershwin born; Folk Song Society founded in London.


The Spanish–American War brings Spanish Empire to an end – Cuba gains independence, Puerto Rico and Philippines ceded to USA; Mallarmé dies; Hemingway born; Wells The War of the Worlds; Henry James The Turn of the Screw; Magritte born; Henry Moore born.

Poulenc born; Sibelius Symphony No. 1 and premiere of Finlandia ; Elgar completes his ‘Enigma’ Variations; Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht.


Boer War begins in S. Africa; Monet begins Waterlilies series at Giverny; Nabokov born; Hemingway born; Freud The Interpretation of Dreams.

Puccini Tosca; Elgar The Dream of Gerontius; Debussy Nocturnes; Copland born.


Build-up of German sea power begins; Nietszche dies; Wilde dies; Freud The Interpretation of Dreams; Picasso moves from Barcelona to Paris.

Verdi dies; Ravel Jeux d’eau; Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2; Louis Armstrong born.


Queen Victoria dies; Marconi makes first transatlantic radio transmission; Toulouse-Lautrec dies; beginning of Picasso’s Blue Period; Strindberg The Dance of Death.

Walton born; Mahler Symphony No. 5; Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande.


Zola dies; Conrad Heart of Darkness; James The Wings of the Dove; Boer War ends with British victory and collapse of South African Republic and Orange Free State.

Enrico Caruso joins Metropolitan Opera Company in New York and makes first recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company; Cecil Sharp begins collecting folksongs in Somerset; Janáček Jenůfa.


Wright brothers make first successful flight in America; Emmeline Pankhurst founds Women’s Social and Political Union; Pissarro dies; Gauguin dies; Orwell born; Waugh born; Jack London The Call of the Wild.

Dvořák dies; Puccini Madama Butterfly; Mahler Kindertotenlieder.


Emile Berliner replaces phonograph cylinders with discs; Dalí born; Chekhov The Cherry Orchard; Chekhov dies; Conrad Nostromo; Barrie Peter Pan; Russo-Japanese War.

R. Strauss Salome; Debussy La Mer; Tippett born.


Einstein publishes his Theory of Special Relativity, supplanting the centuries-old Newtonian theory of mechanics; Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg – troops fire on workers.

Shostakovich born; Elgar The Kingdom; Mahler Symphony No. 6; Rachmaninov begins Symphony No. 2; Schoenberg Chamber Symphony No. 2.


Dreyfus retried and found not guilty of treason (France); first Russian parliament; Cézanne dies; Picasso Portrait of Gertrude Stein; Ibsen dies; Beckett born; Barrie Peter Pan.

Grieg dies; Sibelius Symphony No. 3; Rimsky-Korsakov Le Coq d’or.


Picasso’s revolutionary and controversial Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; beginning of Cubism; Hague peace conference fails to secure arms limitation from Germany; Britain, France and Russia join in Triple Entente; Auden born.

Rimsky-Korsakov dies; Messiaen born; Debussy Children’s Corner; Elgar Symphony No. 1; Ravel Rapsodie espagnole; Webern Passacaglia; Schoenberg starts writing atonal music – music with no tonal centre.


Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina; Old Age Pensions Act passed in Britain under Herbert Asquith; Forster A Room with a View; Klimt finishes The Kiss.

Mahler completes his Das Lied von der Erde and Symphony No. 9; Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3; Schoenberg Erwartung; premiere of R. Strauss’s Elektra; Schoenberg Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16; Albéniz dies.


Louis Blériot flies across English Channel; Diaghilev begins the Ballets Russes ballet company in Paris; Francis Bacon born; Futurist movement arises in Italy.

Strauss Der Rosenkavalier; Stravinsky The Firebird; Webern Five Pieces; Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Barber born.


Union of South Africa formed; Matisse La Dance and La Musique; Tolstoy dies; Mark Twain dies.

The Romantic Era

(c. 1810–1910)

When you think of a stereotypical composer, the person you picture probably looks a lot like Beethoven – a crazy-haired, mad-eyed genius who wrote the music he wanted to and didn’t care what anybody else thought! In the Romantic era, people started experimenting with traditional forms, trying to reflect the whole spectrum of human emotion in sound. At the same time, lots of composers were inspired by the traditional music of their native countries, making their language increasingly diverse. The way composers and performers earned money changed too: instead of having patrons, they would give public concerts to support themselves, and self-expression and showmanship became more and more important.