Major Events of “Modern History”

As Young Thomas Dordrecht Might Have Been Taught Them



1492 Columbus discovered America


1517 The Protestant Reformation began


1571 The infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre claimed the lives of thousands of Protestants across France


1574 Besieged by the Spanish from May until October, the city of Leiden was relieved only by the cutting of the dikes; the siege and the flood cost one-third of the population, but as a reward for its heroism, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575


1581 The Union of Utrecht proclaimed the Netherlands a republic and independent from Spain


1609 Henry Hudson, on behalf of the Dutch States-General, explored and claimed the territory that became the New Netherlands.  (This claim comprised the Delaware, Hudson, and Connecticut River valleys.) 


1619 The Synod of Dort, which took place in the city of Dordrecht, Netherlands, established the Dutch Reformed Church as a strict Calvinist institution, repudiating the more liberal notions of Arminianism


1623 Colonization of both the upper Hudson valley (Albany area) and the lower (New York City area), organized by the Dutch West Indies Company, began in earnest


1626 Pieter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from the Unami Indians of the Delaware tribe “for 60 guilders” 


1633 Galileo forced to recant his scientific observations before the Inquisition


1642–46 English Civil War ends with Parliamentary victory


1648 The Peace of Westphalia concludes the Thirty Years’ War, and also finally establishes Dutch independence


1649 English King Charles I is beheaded, and a republic is proclaimed


1657 The Town of New Utrecht is chartered on Long Island by Jacques Cortelyou


1660 Restoration of the English monarchy under Charles II


1664 New Netherlands is taken over by the English and renamed New York


1672 The “disaster year” of Dutch history, in which the Netherlands republic was simultaneously attacked by France, England, and several German states; military failures then prompted the populace to oust the liberal leadership of the DeWitt brothers in favor of the royalist house of Orange.


1673 The Dutch briefly regain New Netherlands, but it is permanently ceded back to the English in November 1674


1675–78 King Philip’s War.  The attempts of Wampanoag chieftain “King Philip” to drive out the encroaching settlers of Massachusetts and Rhode Island led to devastating slaughter on both sides.  Native Americans were never again a force in New England. 


1688–89 The “Glorious Revolution” in England relatively bloodlessly deposes the Catholic James II in favor of the Protestant Dutch prince William III, and his wife Mary II.  New York, originally proprietary to James (then the Duke of York), now comes under the direct authority of the crown. 


1689–97 King William’s War, the first of many European wars to directly involve the North American colonies, was marked in America principally by attacks on the British frontier settlements, and by the taking of Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) by British colonial forces in 1690. (The French recaptured it the next year.) The British were unable to take Quebec, and the French commander, the Comte de Frontenac, attacked the British coast.


1693 The Church of England is established as the official religion of New York colony, despite the fact that less than 3% of the population (at the time) professes it.  Around 49% were Dutch Reformed, the largest single denomination.  In New York, as in Holland at this time, Jews were more easily tolerated than Roman Catholics. 


1702–13 Queen Anne’s War.  Corresponds to the “War of the Spanish Succession.” North American frontiers were again the scene of bloody battles, the French and Native American raid on Deerfield, Mass. (1704), being especially notable. Another British attempt to take Quebec, this time by naval attack, failed. British occupation of Acadia (Nova Scotia) and Newfoundland was confirmed in the Peace of Utrecht (1713).


1712 Thomas Newcomen patents the atmospheric steam engine


1724 Gabriel Fahrenheit invents the first mercury thermometer


1731 New York City received its first two “fire engines” (portable hand pumps, worked by six men supported by a bucket brigade) from London, to the amazement and jubilation of the populace.


1732 New York City’s first “theatre” – a warehouse at Maiden Lane and Pearl Street – opened 


1732 Benjamin Franklin first publishes Poor Richard’s Almanac


1733 John Kay invents the flying shuttle


1734 The “Great Awakening,” a Protestant revivalist movement, sweeps much of English North America


1735 Trial of John Peter Zenger in New York City dramatizes the issue of freedom of the press


1739 Smallpox epidemic in New York City


1739–42 The “War of Jenkins’ Ear” between Britain and Spain had some impact on the northern colonies 


1741 A slave insurrection in New York City touched off an episode of hysteria that outdid the Salem witchcraft frenzy (1692), and produced “the ugliest orgy of Negro persecutions occurring anywhere in America during the colonial period” (historian Edward Robb Ellis).  Some 32 Negroes and 4 whites were executed. 


1744–48 King George’s War (the American phase of the War of the Austrian Succession) was best known for the successful 1745 assault on Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, which involved thousands of men from Massachusetts. Border warfare was severe but inconclusive. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) returned Louisbourg to France, a concession that prompted much indignation in New England. 


1748 Montesquieu publishes The Spirit of the Laws


1750 The demise of J.S. Bach was noted only locally, in Leipzig, Germany – his reputation having been eclipsed by that of his four sons


1751 Diderot publishes his Encyclopedia


1752 Benjamin Franklin invents the lightning rod


1752 Great Britain (and her colonies) adopt the Gregorian calendar, losing 11 days out of September and conforming to the rest of Europe for the first time since 1582. [Throughout his life, Thomas Dordrecht would likely have written his birthdate as “January 16, 1740 O.S.” – the acronym standing for “Old Style.”]


1754 Outbreak of overt hostilities in the French and Indian War 


1755 Samuel Johnson publishes the first English language dictionary


1755 November 1 earthquake, fire, and tsunami destroys Lisbon, Portugal, and causes over 60,000 deaths


1756 First celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in New York City


1758 On Christmas Day, Halley’s Comet appeared for the first time following the astronomer’s 1705 prediction of it 





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