Political boundaries at the beginning of year 1700
The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 to December 31, 1800 in the Gregorian calendar. During the 18th century, the Enlightenment culminated in the French and American revolutions. Philosophy and science increased in prominence. Philosophers dreamed of a brighter age. This dream turned into a reality with the French Revolution of 1789, though later compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror (1793–1794) under Maximilien Robespierre. At first, many monarchies of Europe embraced Enlightenment ideals, but with the French Revolution they feared losing their power and formed broad coalitions for the counter-revolution. The Ottoman Empire experienced an unprecedented period of peace and economic expansion, taking part in no European wars from 1740 to 1768. As a consequence the empire did not share in Europe's military improvements during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), causing its military to fall behind and suffer defeats against Russia in the second half of the century.
The 18th century also marked the end of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an independent state. The once-powerful and vast kingdom, which had once conquered Moscow and defeated great Ottoman armies, collapsed under numerous invasions. Its semi-democratic government system was not robust enough to rival the neighboring monarchies of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire and the Austrian Empire which divided the Commonwealth territories between themselves, changing the landscape of Central European politics for the next hundred years.
European colonization of the Americas and other parts of the world intensified and associated mass migrations of people grew in size as the Age of Sail continued. Great Britain became a major power worldwide with the defeat of France in North America in the 1760s and the conquest of large parts of India. However, Britain lost many of its North American colonies after the American Revolution, which resulted in the formation of the newly independent United States. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the 1770s with the production of the improved steam engine. Despite its modest beginnings in the 18th century, steam-powered machinery would radically change human society and the environment.
Western historians have occasionally defined the 18th century otherwise for the purposes of their work. For example, the "short" 18th century may be defined as 1715–1789, denoting the period of time between the death of Louis XIV of France and the start of the French Revolution, with an emphasis on directly interconnected events. To historians who expand the century to include larger historical movements, the "long" 18th century may run from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 or even later.