WHP Lesson 31: The Long Nineteenth Century

You might expect a 164-year period called “the long nineteenth century” to feel like a long time. But democracy, industry, imperialism, and a growing human population meant change was happening more rapidly than ever before.

Driving Question: Why do we call the time period from 1750-1914 the “long nineteenth century?

  • A century is only 100 years, but what we refer to as the long nineteenth century spans closer to 200 years. How can that be? Well, a bunch of historians have agreed that this period of one hundred and sixty-four years includes a ton of momentous changes and deserved its own catchy name. And remember, historians love to study change over time.
  • Here’s just a short list of things that happened during this period: the biggest slave revolt of all time erupts in Haiti; monarchies begin to fall apart and most of the Americas gain independence from Europe; slavery is abolished; China’s dynastic cycle ends. Oh, and people start driving cars and women get to vote. Really, that’s just the short version.

Word of the Day: Revolution

  • Definition: a massive upheaval in ideas or ways of doing something, or the wide scale change or transformation that occurs because of it.
  • Calling something a revolution means that you really, really think it changed things. But it’s important to remember that even after a revolution, there are things that will have stayed the same—we call these continuities. For example, in the American Revolution, slavery wasn’t abolished, and women didn’t get the right to vote. It was business as usual in regard to those issues.


  • Go to Khan Academy and watch the Era 6 Overview in Lesson 6.0
  • As you watch, think about the major changes that are being described over the course of the long nineteenth century, and whether this time period deserves its label. 

Historian’s Journal Prompt

  • How would you periodize and name a recent time period in history?
  • Think about the last 100 years, the last 20 years, or even just events in your lifetime. How could you organize them based on dates and what would you name the time period you’ve chosen?