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Religion and Philosophy: Chronology

1750-1914: Religion and Philosophy: Chronology




  • Hasidism, a pietistic branch of Judaism, is established by Israel ben Eliezer, whose followers call him Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name).


  • In Great Britain an Act of Parliament permits the naturalization of Jews.


  • Pope Benedict XIV dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Carlo della Torre Rezzonico as Clement XIII.



  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes Du Contrat social (On the Social Contract), in which he asserts that government receives its authority by the consent of its people, not from divine rights conferred by God.


  • Robert Raikes founds Sunday Schools in England.



  • The Jesuits are expelled from Spain.


  • Pope Clement XIII dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Lorenzo Ganganelli as Clement XIV.


  • The Inquisition, which has been attempting to enforce Roman Catholic orthodoxy, is abolished in France.


  • Under pressure from nation-states that oppose the influence of powerful Jesuits, Pope Clement XIV dissolves the Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus.


  • On the death of Pope Clement XIV, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Braschi is elected Pope, taking the name Pius VI.
  • New Testament textual criticism begins with the work of Johann Jakob Griesbach.


  • Social philosopher Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations, in which he outlines the evolution of economic systems from primitive hunting to free-market capitalism.


  • In his posthumously published Dialogues concerning Natural Religion philosopher David Hume asserts the impossibility of proving the existence of God through the use of human reason.


  • Joseph II of Austria grants a patent of religious tolerance and freedom of the press in Austria.
  • Philosopher Immanuel Kant publishes his Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason), in which he argues that while human reason cannot establish that God exists, it also cannot prove His nonexistence.


  • In Vienna, Pope Pius VI fails to persuade Joseph II to rescind the program of toleration in Austria.
  • Clergyman-scientist Joseph Priestley publishes A History of the Corruptions of Christianity, in which he argues that Jesus was a mortal man who preached the resurrection of the body, not the soul, which is a nonexistent abstraction.


  • The Bengal Asiatic Society is founded to study Sanskrit, leading to the broader dissemination of Hindu religious ideas in Europe.
  • John Wesley’s Deed of Declaration establishes the charter of Wesleyan Methodism.


  • Immanuel Kant publishes his Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (Critique of Practical Reason), in which he asserts that the idea of the existence of God enters the human mind through an inner voice of conscience he calls the “categorical imperative.”


  • Philosopher Jeremy Bentham publishes Principles of Morals and Legislation, in which he argues that humankind is primarily motived by pleasure and pain and that the best law is the one resulting in the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.”


  • Jews in France are granted civil liberties.


  • Thomas Belsham founds the Unitarian Society.


  • The Baptist Missionary Society is founded in London.


  • William Carey leaves England for India, where he serves as the first Protestant missionary.


  • William Paley publishes Evidences of Christianity, arguing for the historical truth of the Gospels.


  • Freedom of worship is granted in France.
  • The London Missionary Society is founded.


  • William Wilberforce publishes A Practical View of the Religious System, his defense of the Anglican faith against the arguments of freethinkers and atheists.


  • French troops invade Rome and capture Pope Pius VI.


  • Friedrich Schleiermacher publishes Über die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern (On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers), arguing that true religion is “taste for the infinite” based primarily in feelings rather than reason and established belief systems.
  • Pius VI dies in captivity in France.


  • Cardinal Barnaba Chiaramonti is elected Pope, taking the name Pius VII.


  • Napoleon I and Pope Pius VII negotiate a concordat defining the relationship between Church and State in France.


  • The Huguenot (Protestant) Church is given legal standing in France.



  • The British and Foreign Bible Society is founded in London.


  • Napoleon abolishes the Inquisition in Spain and Italy.
  • French troops occupy Rome, prompting Pope Pius VII to excommunicate Napoleon, who responds by imprisoning the Pope.


  • During the “Great Schism” in Wales two-thirds of Welsh Anglicans leave the Established Church.


  • Jews in Prussia are granted civil equality.


  • The Russian Bible Society is formed.


  • After the fall of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII returns to Rome, where he restores the Inquisition and reestablishes the Jesuit order


  • The Congress of Vienna settlement restores to the papacy much of the Church land confiscated in France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.


  • Juan Llorente publishes his Historia critica de la inquisition de Espaňa (History of the Inquisition in Spain), an anticlerical work blaming the Catholic Church for the deaths of some thirty thousand so-called heretics (a figure modern historians consider inflated).


  • Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) Churches in Prussia form an Evangelical Union.


  • Hegel becomes professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin.


  • Friedrich Schleiermacher publishes Der christliche Glaube (The Christian Faith), in which he develops his idea that religious faith is based on the intuitive awareness of a higher power that gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence.


  • The Royal Asiatic Society for the study of Eastern languages is founded, contributing to the growth of Western interest in Asian religions.


  • Pope Pius VII dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Annibale della Genga, who takes the name Leo XII.


  • French law makes sacrilege a capital offense.


  • In England, John Nelson Darby, a former Anglican clergyman, founds the Plymouth Brethren, a Protestant group that does not recognize clergymen as distinct from lay people, and becomes active in foreign missionary work.
  • John Keble publishes The Christian Year, devotional poems for each of the holy days mentioned in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.


  • Following the repeal of the British Test and Corporation Acts, Catholics and Nonconformists are allowed to hold public office in Great Britain.


  • The Catholic Emancipation Act allows British Roman Catholics to serve in Parliament and hold almost any other public office.
  • On the death of Pope Leo XII, Cardinal Francesco Castiglione is elected Pope, taking the name Pius VIII.


  • Pope Pius VIII dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Mauro Capellari as Gregory XVI.


  • John Keble’s sermon On the National Apostasy criticizes the British Parliament’s control over the Anglican Church and sets in motion the Oxford Movement.
  • The Greek Orthodox Church becomes independent from control by the patriarch of Constantinople.


  • David Friedrich Strauss publishes DasLebenJesu kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus Critically Examined), in which he calls the Gospels “historical myth.”



  • The Opium Wars, which begin when the Chinese try to suppress British opium trade in their country, end with victory for the British, one consequence of which is increased access of missionaries to inland areas of China.


  • Søren Kierkegaard publishes the first of the works that establish his reputation as the founder of European Existentialism
  • John Stuart Mill publishes A System of Logic, an ambitious attempt to define the methods of the physical and social sciences.


  • Friedrich Engels publishes Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (The Conditions of the Working Class in England), an expose of the ill effects of industrialization.
  • Anglican clergyman John Henry Newman, a leader of the Oxford Movement, becomes a Roman Catholic.



  • A famine in Ireland sets in motion a major wave of immigration to the United States.



  • Prussia establishes a church council to manage Protestant churches.



  • Bernadette Soubirous says the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared before her at Lourdes, France.
  • Lionel de Rothschild becomes the first Jewish member of the British Parliament.


  • Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, propounding a theory of evolution that is widely interpreted as antithetical to the biblical explanation of creation.
  • The first Anglican missionary work begins in Japan.


  • Pope Pius IX publishes his Syllabus of Errors, condemning liberalism, socialism, rationalism, and other modern ideas.


  • James H. Taylor founds the China Inland Mission.


  • Lay readers are permitted to conduct nonsacramental services in the Church of England.


  • Karl Marx publishes volume one of his Das Kapital, predicting a worldwide workers’ revolution that will create a classless, communist society.


  • Austrian schools are freed from Church control.


  • The Vatican Council opens in Rome.


  • The Vatican Council promulgates the dogma of papal infallibility.


  • In protest against the proclamation of papal infallibility, a splinter group of Old Catholics leaves the Roman Church and holds its first congress in Munich.
  • The Anglican Church in Ireland is disestablished but is allowed to keep the cathedrals and other church buildings it acquired during the English Reformation of 1537, which established Anglicanism as the state church of Ireland.


  • Resenting the influence of Rome on German Catholics, Otto von Bismarck breaks off diplomatic relations with the Vatican and expels the Jesuits from Germany.


  • Pulpit laws in Prussia ban priests from speaking about politics in their sermons.


  • Pope Pius IX dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi Pecci as Leo XIII.


  • Anti-Jesuit laws are passed in France.
  • The national body of the Swedish Baptist General Conference is formed.


  • Frances Xavier Cabrini founds the Order of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.


  • The Vatican archives are opened to scholars.


  • The Fabian is founded in London with the purpose of creating a democratic socialist state


  • Julius Wellhausen proposes two earlier narratives, identified as “J” and “E,” as sources for the Book of Genesis,


  • Marx’s Das Kapital is published in English.


  • Adolf von Harnack publishes Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (History of Dogma), in which he calls for a return to Christian doctrine as it is stated in the New Testament.


  • Pope Leo XIII issues his “Rerum novarum” (Of New Things), an encyclical recognizing the plight of the working classes.


  • Theodor Herzl calls for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, founding the modern Zionist political movement.


  • During the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising against foreigners in China, thousands of European missionaries and their converts are killed.


  • William Wrede publishes Das Messiahgeheimnis in den Evangelien (The Messianic Secret in the Gospels), in which he asserts that Jesus was not identified as the Messiah until after his death.


  • On the death of Pope Leo XIII, Cardinal Guiseppe Sarto is elected Pope and takes the name Pius X.
  • Anti-Jewish pogroms take place in Russia.


  • France establishes the separation of Church and State.


  • Max Weber publishes Dieprotestantische Ethik und der Gelst des Kapitalismus (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism), in which he links Protestant theology and the rise of capitalism.


  • The Baptist World Alliance is formed.


  • Jesuit general Franz Wernz reforms the order’s plan of studies.
  • Albert Schweitzer publishes Von Reimarus zu Wrede (The Quest for the Historical Jesus), theorizing that Jesus’s religious views were shaped by a belief that the end of the world was imminent.


  • A papal encyclical condemns modernism.


  • The World Missionary Conference is held in Edinburgh.



  • Pope Pius X dies and is succeeded by Cardinal Giocomo della Chiesa, who takes the name Benedict XV and reigns until 1922.


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