Asia and Britain in the Nineteenth Century

A timeline showing some major events


Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15
Datesort descending Event Created by Associated Places

"Founding of Singapore" by Stamford Raffles

Raffles choose Singapore as Britain's new base in Southeast Asia because of its location on the Malacca Strait (giving British control over shipping to/from the entire region and curtailing the power of the Dutch Empire), its near-perfect natural harbor, its abundant water supply, and its easy access to timber. 

Ross Forman
1839 to 1842

The First Opium War

The First Opium War was a chorological series of engagements between the United Kingdom and China. The initiation of this war between the super powers began when China attempted to step in a suppress the opium trade. This suppression lit a fire under the United Kingdom because the United Kingdom was participating in the illegal exportation of opium from India to China since the beginning of the 18th century. From this, the addiction rates in China skyrocketed causing China’s economy and social wellbeing to ultimately deplete at an exponentially fast rate. During the Spring of 1839, the Chinese government managed to seize copious amounts of opium from British traders. In 1840, United Kingdom decided to send a task force to Hong Kong China with orders to occupy and attack the city. The UK government continued these attacks for Chinese forces for an entire year. In 1842, the UK government and Chinese government decided to make amends and created the Treaty of Nanjing which ultimately ended the violent wars between the two super powers. The theme of drug addiction, specifically opium within The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is extremely prevalent. In several passages of the novel, Arthur Huntington is oftentimes described be addicted to opium in excess and the addiction is credited as one of his reasons of declination.

Brontë, Anne, and Margaret Lane. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ; Agnes Grey. Dent, 1980.

“Opium Wars.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

Taylon Anderson
1839 to 1860

England And China: The Opium Wars, 1839-60

As Great Britian imported Opium into China, an estimated 12 million Chinese men became addicted to Opium. This caused for production as well as stardard of living to go down. China then made laws against Opium and this caused conflict between Great Britain and China. Thus forth leading to the Opium Wars. 

Allingham, Philip V. England and China: The Opium Wars, 1839-60, 26 June 2006,

Rachel Henriquez

Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing)

Under this treaty, the first of a series of so-called "unequal treaties" and the one which ended the First Opium War, Hong Kong was ceded in perpetuity to Britain.  The Chinese were forced to allow Western trade, formerly restricted only to Canton (Gaunghzhou) at five "treaty ports":  Canton, Shanghai, Amoy (Xiamen), Ningpo (Ningbo), and Foochowfoo (Fuzhou).

Ross Forman
1850 to 1864

Taiping Rebellion

One of the deadliest conflicts in human history, this civil war in China during the Qing dynasty cost tens of millions of lives.  It resulted in widespread famine and was a major "push" factor in Chinese emigration--often through coercive indentured labor schemes--to other parts of the world.  It also involved a bizarre, millenarian cult, with a leader who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ.

Ross Forman

Expansion of Hong Kong to Kowloon

In 1860, China ceded Kowloon Peninsula to Britain as part of the Convention of Peking ending the Secomd Opium War.

Ross Forman
1862 to 1867

Anna Leonowens

Anna Leonowens accepted an invitaiton from the consul in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching, to teach the children and wives of the King of Siam.  She lived and worked in Bangkok from 1862-187 as a teacher and then the king's language secretatry.

In 1870, she published The English Governess at the Siamese Court.

Ross Forman
1868 to 1912

Meiji Restoration

Period of reform, reorganization and Western-style modernization

Ross Forman

Dissolution of the Samurai Class

In the years leading up to and following 1873, the government of Japan worked to gradually dissolve the Samurai class. The government at this point in Japan’s history was working to unite the upper and lower classes and create a system where all were equal, sentiments displayed in the Meiji Restoration’s Charter Oath, a sort of founding document for the new government. So, the government began to merge ex-Samurai into the rest of society. They did so at times with incentives, such as providing lots of opportunities for ex-Samurai to find employment in government projects like land reclamation and the railway industry. They also did so at times with mandates, such as abolishing their pension system, preventing them from carrying swords, discontinuing old styles of Samurai garb, and making rulings to end their once-held legal privileges. While many were able to adjust to their new way of life, many found their new lives a poor trade for what they once had. But hey, what could a group of highly trained, proud men who were suddenly stripped of their entire identity possibly do in retribution? Oh, wait . . .


  • “The Charter Oath (of the Meiji Restoration), 1868.” Columbia University Asia for Educators
  • Harootunian, Harry. “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882.” Pacific Historical Review 28, no. 3 (1959): 255-266. doi: 10.2307/3636470.

Reign Browning
Nov 1890

The Yellow Peril
A 1913 cover of Sax Rohmer’s The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Macnhu

The Yellow Peril was a term originated in Imperial Germany in the 1890s. This term was a color-metaphor referred to Western fears that Asians, particularly the Chinese, would invade their lands and disrupt Western values, such as democracy, Christianity, and technological innovation. The term of the Yellow Peril spread through Britain with the rise of Chinese populations in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion (Nov 2, 1899 – Sep 7, 1901). The Boxer Rebellion was an uprising movement against foreigners that occurred at the end of the Qing dynasty in northern China. The Boxer did experienced suppression by allied forces in China; however, the Western anxieties continually increased, which turned into the fears of the “Yellow Peril”. The most recognizable character of “Yellow Peril” was Dr. Fu Manchu, a villain from the series of novels written by a British author Sax Rohmer. Image: A 1913 cover of Sax Rohmer’s The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Macnhu


Shanyn Fiske, “Modeling Masculinity: Engendering the Yellow Peril in Fu-Manchu and Thomas Burke’s Limehouse Nights”

Shiqi Deng
1895 to 1945

Japanese Invasion of Taiwan and Subsequent Colonization

The 1895 Japanese invasion of Taiwan heralded a period of colonial rule that lasted until 1945.

Ross Forman
1898 to 1946

US Dominance in the Philippines

Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippines declared independence.  This sparked a bloody war (1899-1902), as the US sought to gain control of the terrority, which had been ceded to them by the Spanish.  This was one of the first "guerrilla" conflicts in modern history.

Ross Forman
1898 to 1997

Lease of the New Territories, Kowloon to Hong Kong

This was the second expansion of Britain's colony in Hong Kong.  China ceded the New Territories rent-free for a period of 99 years.

Ross Forman
Summer 1898 to 1930

Lease of Weihaiwei

In 1898, Britian leased Weihaiwei, to check Russian power in the region, following the 25-year-lease of Port Arthur to the Russians.

Ross Forman
Autumn 1899 to 7 Sep 1901

Boxer Rebellion (義和團運動)

By the mid-19th century, Christianity spread and blossomed in China. Churches and Missionaries were all over the country, and this expansion casued conflicts with the local people.

On a microscopic scale, this was seen by the Chinese as a bunch of Westerners spreading their Western degeneracy and eroding Chinese Culture. At the height of the hysteria, rumours were spread where these Westerners were scooping out children's eyeballs and collecting their semen for medicine. (The original term is "陽精" which means "male vitality") Despite the missionaries' attempts to build hospitals and schools for the locals, they are often ignored by the Chinese Locals. In 1868, a plague broke out in a French Monastery that led to the deaths of many babies. This event was seen by the locals as the French Missionaries killing said babies, which led to the public stoning of a French Minister.

On a macroscopic scale, the Qing Dynasty was consistently losing their influence to neighbouring countries due to corruption and a failure to anticipate other countries. These repeated losses include: The Treaty of Nanking (南京條約) (1842), which gave Hong Kong Island to the British after the First Opium War; The Convention of Peking (北京條約(1860), which gave the Kowloon Peninsula to the British and Outer Manchuria to the Russians after the Second Opium War; the Treaty of Aigun (璦琿條約) (1858), which ceded northern Manchuria to Russia;  The Treaty of Tientsin (天津條約) (1858), which opened Chinese Ports to foreign trade and increased missionary activities to foreign countries; The Treaty of Bakan (馬關條約) (1895), which gave Taiwan to Japan. These are just part of the countless treaties where China was unable to defend itself towards foreign powers, but it is generally agreed by historians that the Treaty of Bakan was what ultimately pushed forward this movement.

Around 1900, a group of people named The Yìhétuán (義和團) was established. They branded themselves as a martial arts cult and claimed that by repeating their mantras, followers would be "Impenetrable by blades"and "Unharmed by Cannons". This group of people were backed by the Empress Dowager Cixi at the time. Not only because this faux-populist movement can make the regime appear less like an accountable for any retaliations since it was "self-organized", but the club also changed their motto from "反清復明" (Abolish Qing Restore Ming) to "扶清滅洋" (Help Qing Defeat the West). This mantra helped perpetrate  a reduction in friction between the ruling Manchurians and the ruled Han-Chinese, thereby strengthening Cixi's grasp on the country from Han Nationalists.

After the repeated murders of foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians, the group ended up expanding their movement into Zhili (Modern day Hebei) and killed a German and a Japanese Embassy Staff Member. Cixi declared war against all these nations on June 15th 1900, which ultimately led to the Eight Nation Alliance between England, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and America. The battalion attacked China for its deeds and took over Beijing on August 15th. By October 26th, Cixi surrendered on behalf of China after escaping to Xi'an.

The surrender led to the signing of the Boxer Protocol (辛丑條約) (1901), which led to war reparations and a Chinese exclusion zone withinin Beijing for security reasons: only Westerners can live within this zone in order to prevent another massacre. This ended up being one of the most disgraceful events under the Qing Dynasty. It caused much distrust towards the Manchurian Regime amongst the Chinese populace and an increased support in Sun Yat-sen's revolution.

Academy of Chinese Studies. (一)列強不斷侵華與教案頻生: 中國文化研究院 - 燦爛的中國文明.

Romanization of Treaty names are taken from Wikipedia.

Oscar Wong