The 1790s were an era of big change in the world. There were new democracies forming, such as in the new United States and post-Revolutionary France, as the age of Imperialism faded away. There were other revolutions around the world in this decade both social and political ones. These movements forever transformed both politics and culture around the globe.
There were plenty of other things happening in the world in the 1790s, too. Any of these, or all of these, could have been known about by our ancestors, and probably were, Some of them probably even experienced some of these things personally. These are the highlights of the decade, so you can use the knowledge to get to know your ancestors on a more personal level.
The United States and France
While the biggest thing that happened in the 1790s in France was the French Revolution and the abolishment of the monarchy, there were other things happening in France in this decade. In 1790, for example, prior to the French Revolution, King Louis XVI promised the French National Assembly that he would uphold and maintain the country’s constitutional laws. Also, France was divided into eighty-three departments, which cut across the lines of the former provinces. This was done in an attempt to disrupt regional loyalties to certain members of the nobility based on their ownership of the land in those provinces.
In the United States, President George Washington gave the new nation’s first State of the Union address in New York City. The first national census was authorized for 1790 and has been held every ten years ever since. Thomas Jefferson gave his first report to President George Washington as the country’s first Secretary of State. The Supreme Court of the United States began its first session. The first new state aside from the original thirteen colonies was admitted to the union during this decade, and became the state of Vermont.
In the News
There were some important historical events that took place during this decade that would have made the news in most places on the planet. The infamous Mutiny on the Bounty occurred, and leader Fletcher Christian and the eight mutineers landed on the island of Pitcairn.
Mozart’s opera Cosi fan Tutte premiered in Vienna.
The first rescue lifeboat was tested in England.
A patent for the first steamboat was issued in the United States.
The first ship launched from America reached Japan, thus opening up trade between the United States and Asia.
The last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, is crowned.
Experiments in gaslighting begin in Europe.
The first semaphore line, designed for quick, long-distance communication by semaphore signals, is built and demonstrated in France.
Upper Canada abolishes slavery.
The cotton gin is invented.
France, under the Revolutionary government, abolishes slavery.
Much of the decade was dominated by United States politics, the French Revolution, and some minor wars going on in Scandinavia and Great Britain. Most of our ancestors would have read about these things in the news and may have experienced some of them personally. The 1790s can best be described as a decade of world political upheaval, but one which laid the political foundations of our modern society.