World History 1856

About the history of the world in 1856, the Second Opium War begins, Big Ben is cast in England, Mauve is discovered.



* British foreign minister Lord Palmerston demanded total recognition of European diplomatic and commercial rights in China. The Second Opium War resulted, culminating in the sacking and burning of the Summer Palace in Peking. Soldiers returning to England with loot started a run on Chinese art.

* Parliament's 13.5-ton "Big Ben" bell was cast and named after the London director of public works, Sir Benjamin Hill.

* Henry Bessemer patented the Bessemer process in England. The process, involving blowing air through molten iron to remove impurities, revolutionized the steel industry by allowing the use of low-grade iron.

* A German named Gaedicke isolated an alkaloid of the leaves of the coca plant and called it erythroxylin. In 1860 a crystalline form of the alkaloid was obtained and named cocaine. Another account ascribes the discovery to an investigator named Gaedken in 1844.

* In London, Sir William H. Perkin discovered the first coal-tar dye, "mauve." The discovery gave birth to the synthetic dye industry.

Mar. 30 the Treaty of Paris ended the Crimean War, which had cost a half-million Russian, French, British, and Turkish soldiers their lives. (Two thirds of them had died of disease.)

May 21 Proslavery forces led by a U.S. marshal attacked Lawrence, Kans. They burned the local hotel and some houses, destroyed the newspaper office, and killed two men.

May 25 John Brown of Osawatomie, Kans., and six companions, including four of his sons, butchered five men at Pottawatomie River in reprisal for the "sack of Lawrence." The guerrilla was that followed left 200 dead in "bleeding Kansas."

Aug. 19 Gail Borden, inventor and philanthropist, patented condensed milk in the U.S.

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