|Centuries:||17th century – 18th century – 19th century|
|Decades:||1740s 1750s 1760s – 1770s – 1780s 1790s 1800s|
|Years:||1770 1771 1772 1773 1774 1775 1776 1777 1778 1779|
|Births – Deaths – By country
Establishments – Disestablishments
This is a list of events occurring in the 1770s, ordered by year.
- January 1 – Foundation of Fort George, Bombay laid by Colonel Keating, principal engineer, on the site of the former Dongri Fort.
- March 5 – Boston Massacre: Eleven Americans are shot, five fatally, by British troops in an event that helps start the American Revolutionary War five years later.
- March 26 – First voyage of James Cook: English explorer Captain James Cook and his crew aboard HMS Endeavour complete the circumnavigation of New Zealand.
- April 18 (April 19 by Cook's log) 18:00 – First voyage of James Cook: English explorer Captain James Cook and his crew become the first recorded Europeans to encounter the eastern coastline of the Australian continent.
- April 20 – Georgian king Erekle II defeats the Ottoman forces in the battle of Aspindza, despite being abandoned by an ally, Russian General Totleben.
- April 29 – First voyage of James Cook: Captain Cook drops anchor on HMS Endeavour in a wide bay about 16 km (10 mi) south of the present city of Sydney, Australia. Because the young botanist on board the ship, Joseph Banks, discovers 30,000 specimens of plant life in the area, 1,600 of them unknown to European science, Cook names the place Botany Bay on May 7.
- May 7 – Fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette arrives at the French court.
- May 16
- June 3 – Gaspar de Portolà and Father Junípero Serra establish Monterey, the presidio of Alta California territory for Spain from 1777–1822, United Mexican States 1824–1846, until the California Republic.
- June 9 – Falklands Crisis (1770): Some 1600 Spanish marines, sent by the Spanish governor of Buenos Aires in five frigates, seize Port Egmont in the Falkland Islands. The small British force present promptly surrenders.
- June 11 – First voyage of James Cook: HMS Endeavour grounds on the Great Barrier Reef.
- July 1 – Lexell's Comet (D/1770 L1) passes the Earth at a distance of 2184129 km, the closest approach by a comet in recorded history.
- July 5 – Battle of Chesma and Battle of Larga: The Russian Empire defeats the Ottoman Empire in both battles.
- August 1 (July 21 in Julian Calendar) – Russo-Turkish War (1768–74) – Battle of Kagul: Russian commander Pyotr Rumyantsev routs 150,000 Turks.
- August 22 (August 23 by Cook's log) – First voyage of James Cook: Captain Cook determines that New Holland (Australia) is not contiguous with New Guinea and claims the whole of its eastern coast for Great Britain, later naming it all New South Wales.
- Johann Gottfried Herder meets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Strasbourg.
- Joseph Priestley, British chemist, recommends the use of a rubber to remove pencil marks.
- Joseph-Louis Lagrange proves Bachet's Conjecture.
- The Baron d'Holbach's (anonymous) materialist work Le Système de la Nature ou Des Loix du Monde Physique et du Monde Moral is produced in Neuchâtel.
- January 5 – Great Kalmyk (Torghut) Migration under Ubashi Khan from the east bank of the Lower Volga River back to the homeland of Dzungaria, at this time under Qing dynasty rule.
- January 9 – Emperor Go-Momozono accedes to the throne of Japan, following his aunt's abdication.
- February 12 – Upon the death of Adolf Frederick, he is succeeded as King of Sweden by his son Gustav III. At the time, however, Gustav is unaware of this, since he is abroad in Paris. The news of his father's death reaches him about a month later.
- March – War of the Regulation: North Carolina Governor William Tryon raises a militia to put down the long running uprising of backcountry militias against North Carolina's colonial government.
- March 12 – The North Carolina General Assembly establishes Wake County (named for Margaret Wake, the wife of North Carolina Royal Governor William Tryon) from portions of Cumberland, Johnston and Orange counties. Bloomsbury (later known as Wake Courthouse) is made the informal county seat.
- March 15 – Society of Civil Engineers first meets (in London), the world's oldest engineering society.
- May 11 – War of the Regulation: North Carolina Governor William Tryon marches his militia out of Hillsborough to come to the aid of General Hugh Waddell's beleaguered forces. Tryon's army stops at Alamance Creek, 5 miles (8.0 km) away from the Regulator army.
- May 16 – War of the Regulation: The Battle of Alamance commences after Regulators reject an appeal by Governor Tryon to peacefully disperse. Governor Tryon's forces crush the rebellion, causing many Regulators to move to frontier areas outside of North Carolina.
- May 23 – Battle of Lanckorona: A force of 4,000 Russians under Alexander Suvorov defeat a Polish formation of 1,300 men.
- May – The Three battles of Sarbakusa: an alliance of three of the most powerful aristocrats of Ethiopia – Goshu of Amhara, Wand Bewossen, and Fasil of Damot – defeats Ras Mikael Sehul and Emperor Tekle Haymanot I, taking control of Ethiopia.
- July 13 – Russo-Turkish War (1768–74): Russian forces occupy the Crimea under Prince Vasily Dolgorukov.
- July 17 – Bloody Falls massacre: Chipewyan chief Matonabbee, traveling as the guide to Samuel Hearne on his Arctic overland journey, massacres a group of unsuspecting Inuit.
- August 8 – The first recorded town cricket match at Horsham in England is played.
- September 8 – In California, Fathers Pedro Cambon and Angel Somera found the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in what is now San Gabriel, California.
- September 15–17 – The Moscow plague riot resulting from an outbreak of bubonic plague which kills 57,000.
- October 9 – The Dutch merchant ship Vrouw Maria sinks off the coast of Finland; Captain Raymund Lourens and his crew escape unharmed.
- November 16 – During the night the River Tyne, England, floods, destroying many bridges and killing several people; the replacement main bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne will not be completed until 1781.
- November 17 – Premiere in Milan of the opera Ascanio in Alba by Wolfgang Mozart, age 15.
- The territory of Baden-Baden is inherited by Charles Frederick, Margrave of Baden-Durlach, reunifing the territories of Baden.
- The trade monopoly with Iceland is transferred to the Danish crown.
- The North Carolina General Assembly passes an act establishing the town of Martinsborough, named for Royal Governor Josiah Martin, on the land of Richard Evans, which will serve as the county seat of Pitt County.
- Construction of the Putuo Zongcheng Temple complex in Chengde, China is completed during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.
- Limoges porcelain manufacture established in France.
- Slovene literature: István Küzmics, the Hungarian Slovene writer and evangelical pastor, publishes (in Halle) the Nouvi Zákon, a translation of the New Testament into the Prekmurje Slovene language, with discrete South Slavic artwork.
- January 17 – Johann Friedrich Struensee and Queen Caroline Matilda are arrested, leading to his execution and her banishment from Denmark.
- February 12
- February 17 – The first partition of Poland is agreed to by Russia and Prussia, later including Austria.
- May – The Watauga Association is formed in East Tennessee.
- June 9 – Gaspee Affair: In an act of defiance against the British Navigation Acts, American patriots led by Abraham Whipple attack and burn the British customs schooner HMS Gaspee off of Rhode Island.
- June 22 – Somersett's Case: Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, delivers the decision that leads to the end of slavery in England.
- August 5 – The First Partition of the Polish–Lithuanian commonwealth begins.
- August 12 – The volcano Mount Papandayan in West Java erupts and partially collapses, the debris avalanche killing several thousands.
- August 21 – The coup d'état by King Gustav III is completed by adopting a new Constitution, ending half a century of parliamentary rule in Sweden and making him an enlightened despot.
- September 1 – Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is founded in San Luis Obispo, California.
- October 28 – Basque–Spanish explorer Domingo de Bonechea in the Aguila sights Tauere atoll which he names San Simon y Judas.
- November 2 – American Revolutionary War: Samuel Adams and Joseph Warren form the first Committee of Correspondence.
- January 17 – Second voyage of James Cook: Captain Cook in HMS Resolution (1771) becomes the first European explorer to cross the Antarctic Circle.
- January 18 – The first opera performance in the Swedish language, Thetis and Phelée, performed by Carl Stenborg and Elisabeth Olin in Bollhuset, marks the establishment of the Royal Swedish Opera.
- Spring – Second voyage of James Cook: Tobias Furneaux in HMS Adventure (1771) explores the coast of Van Diemen's Land.
- April 27 – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Tea Act, designed to save the British East India Company by granting it a monopoly on the North American tea trade, coming into force on May 10.
- May – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Regulating Act creating the office of governor general, with an advising council, to exercise political authority over the territory under British East India Company rule in India.
- May 8 – In Egypt, Ottoman rebels revolt, killing Ali Bey, Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.
- July 21 – Under pressure from the Bourbon courts, Pope Clement XIV suppresses the Society of Jesus (brief Dominus ac Redemptor). Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, expels the order from his territories.
- July 29 (Feast of St Martha) – Guatemala earthquake: Santa Marta earthquake, with an estimated epicentral magnitude of 7.5 Mi, strikes the Central American country of Guatemala; numerous aftershocks last until December. The city of Antigua Guatemala is virtually destroyed, leading to the decision to move the country's capital to La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción.
- August 11 – Second voyage of James Cook in the Tuamotus: Captain Cook discovers Tekokota which he names as "Doubtful Island".
- August 12 – Second voyage of James Cook in the Tuamotus: Captain Cook discovers Marutea Nord which he names as "Furneaux Island".
- September 11 – The Public Advertiser publishes a satirical essay titled Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One, written by Benjamin Franklin.
- October 10
- October 12 – America's first insane asylum opens for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds in Williamsburg, Virginia.
- October 13 – French astronomer Charles Messier discovers the Whirlpool Galaxy, an interacting, grand design spiral galaxy located at a distance of approximately 23 million light-years in the constellation Canes Venatici.
- October 14 – The Komisja Edukacji Narodowej (Polish for Commission for the Education of the People), formed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, is considered to be the world's first ministry of education.
- December 16 – Boston Tea Party: A group of American colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, steal aboard ships of the East India Company and dump their cargo of tea into Boston Harbor in protest against British tax policies.
- Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774: Russian forces fail to take Silistria.
- Emelian Pugachev starts Pugachev's Rebellion in Russia, attacking and occupying Samara.
- John Harrison's wins the Longitude prize for his invention of the marine chronometer.
- Hilaire Rouelle discovers urea.
- Istanbul Technical University is established (under the name of Royal School of Naval Engineering) as the world's first comprehensive institution of higher learning dedicated to engineering education.
- In China, written work begins on the Siku Quanshu, the largest literary compilation of books in China's history (surpassing the Yongle Encyclopedia of the 15th Century). Upon completion in 1782, the books are bound in 36,381 volumes (册) with more than 79,000 chapters (卷), comprising about 2.3 million pages, and approximately 800 million Chinese characters.
- Scottish judge James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, begins publication of Of the Origin and Progress of Language, a contribution to evolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment.
- Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock publishes the last five cantos of his epic poem Der Messias in Hamburg.
- January 21 – Mustafa III, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire dies and is succeeded by his brother Abdul Hamid I.
- January 27 – An angry crowd in Boston, Massachusetts seizes, tars and feathers British customs collector and Loyalist John Malcolm for striking a boy and a shoemaker, George Hewes, with his cane.
- March 31 – Intolerable Acts: The British Parliament passes the Boston Port Act, closing the port of Boston, Massachusetts as punishment for the Boston Tea Party.
- April 17 – The first avowedly Unitarian congregation, Essex Street Chapel, is founded in London by Theophilus Lindsey.
- May 10 – Louis XVI becomes King of France following the death of his grandfather, Louis XV.
- May 19 – Shakers Ann Lee and eight followers sail from Liverpool in England for colonial America.
- June 2 – Intolerable Acts: A new Quartering Act, requiring American colonists to provide better housing for British soldiers upon demand, is passed.
- June 16/17 – English explorer James Cook becomes the first European to sight (and name) Palmerston Island in the Pacific Ocean.
- June 20 (June 9 O.S.) – Russo-Turkish War (1768–74): Battle of Kozludzha – The Imperial Russian Army led by Alexander Suvorov routs numerically superior Ottoman Empire forces.
- June 22 – The British pass the Quebec Act, setting out rules of governance for the colony of Quebec in British North America.
- July 21 – Russo-Turkish War (1768–74): Russia and the Ottoman Empire sign the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca with Russian victory, ending six years of war. The treaty gives Russia the right to intervene in Ottoman politics to protect its Christian subjects.
- August 1 – The element oxygen is discovered for the third (and last) time – the second quantitatively following the somewhat earlier work of Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1771–1772) – by Joseph Priestley, who publishes the fact in 1775 and so names the element and usually gets all the credit due to the fact he work was published first.
- September 4 – English explorer James Cook becomes the first European to sight (and name) the island of New Caledonia in Melanesia.
- September 5 – The First Continental Congress assembles in Philadelphia.
- September 21 – George Mason and George Washington found the Fairfax County Militia Association, a military unit independent of British control.
- September 29 – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's semi-autobiographical epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) (written January–March) is published anonymously in Leipzig, Germany; it is influential in the Sturm und Drang movement and Romanticism.
- October 10
- Dunmore's War – Battle of Point Pleasant: Cornstalk is forced to make peace with Dunmore at the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, ceding Shawnee land claims south of the Ohio (modern Kentucky) to Virginia.
- English explorer James Cook becomes the first European to sight (and name) Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean, uninhabited at this date.
- October 21 – The word "Liberty" is first displayed on a flag raised by colonists in Taunton, Massachusetts, in defiance of British rule in Colonial America.
- October 25 – Edenton Tea Party takes place in North Carolina, marking the first major gathering of women in support of the American cause.
- To avoid severe flooding, Martinsborough, North Carolina is moved to higher ground 3 miles (4.8 km) west. The North Carolina General Assembly incorporates Martinsborough as the new county seat of Pitt County, 3 years after its founding.
- German cobbler Johann Birkenstock creates the first Birkenstock sandals.
- A revision of the laws of cricket introduces a leg before wicket rule.
The American Revolution begins this year, with the first military engagement being the April 19 Battles of Lexington and Concord on the day after Paul Revere's now-legendary ride. The Second Continental Congress takes various steps toward organizing an American government, appointing George Washington commander-in-chief (June 14), Benjamin Franklin postmaster general (July 26) and creating a Continental Navy (October 13) and a Marine force (November 10) as landing troops for it, but as yet the 13 colonies have not declared independence, and both the British (June 12) and American (July 15) governments make laws. On July 6, Congress issues the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms and on August 23, King George III of England declares the American colonies in rebellion, announcing it to parliament on November 10. On June 17, two months into the colonial siege of Boston, at the Battle of Bunker Hill, just north of Boston, British forces are victorious, but only after suffering severe casualties and after Colonial forces run out of ammunition, Fort Ticonderoga is taken by American forces in New York Colony's northern frontier, and American forces unsuccessfully invade Canada, with an attack on Montreal defeated by British forces on November 13 and an attack on Quebec repulsed December 31.
Human knowledge and mastery over nature advances when James Watt builds a successful prototype of a steam engine, and a scientific expedition continues as Captain James Cook claims the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in the south Atlantic Ocean for Britain. Nature's power over humanity is dramatically demonstrated when the Independence Hurricane (August 29 – September 13) devastates the east coast of North America, killing 4,173, and when, on the western side of the North American continent, Tseax Cone erupts in the future British Columbia, as well as when a smallpox epidemic begins in New England. Smallpox was then cured by Edward Jenner.
- January – The Habsburg Monarchy forces the Ottoman Empire to cede Bukovina to its rule.
- January 5 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart finishes a Sonata for Keyboard in C.
- January 16–20 – Second voyage of James Cook: Captain James Cook circumnavigates, makes the first landing on and (on January 17) takes possession of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean for the Kingdom of Great Britain. The following month he discovers the South Sandwich Islands.
- February 9 – American Revolution: The Parliament of Great Britain declares the Province of Massachusetts Bay to be in rebellion.
- February 15 – Pope Pius VI succeeds Pope Clement XIV as the 250th pope.
- March 6 – Raghunathrao, Peshwa of the Maratha Empire in India, signs the Treaty of Surat with the British Governor-General Warren Hastings in Bombay ceding the territories of Salsette and Bassein to the British East India Company along with part of the revenues from Surat and Bharuch districts in return for military assistance. This leads to the First Anglo-Maratha War fought between the British and the Marathas, ending with the Treaty of Salbai in 1782.
- March 17 – Catherine the Great of Russia issues a manifesto prohibiting freed serfs from being returned to serfdom.
- March 23 – American Revolution: Patrick Henry, a delegate to the Second Virginia Convention after the Virginia House of Burgesses was disbanded by the Royal Governor, delivers his "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia.
- April 18 – American Revolution: Paul Revere and William Dawes, instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren, ride from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Sam Adams that British forces are coming to take them prisoner and to seize colonial weapons and ammunition in Concord.
- April 19 – American Revolution: Hostility between Britain and its American colonies explodes into bloodshed at the Battles of Lexington and Concord igniting the American Revolution.
- May 9 – American Revolution: Brunswick militiamen commanded by Samuel Thompson capture Henry Mowat, captain of HMS Canceaux.
- May 10
- American Revolution: The Second Continental Congress meets, elects John Hancock president, raises the Continental Army under George Washington as commander and authorizes the colonies to adopt their own constitutions.
- American Revolution: Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, leading the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont, capture Fort Ticonderoga.
- May 17 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress bans trade with Canada.
- June 11 – Battle of Machias, the first naval engagement of the American Revolutionary War.
- June 12 – American Revolution:
- June 14 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress names George Washington as commander of the Continental Army.
- June 16 – Post of Chief Engineer of the Continental Army created.
- June 17 – American Revolution: Two months into the colonial siege of Boston, British open fire on Breed's Hill on Charles Town Peninsula. After 3 charges, the British take the hill in the misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill.
- June 19 – Post of Commanding General was created by the Continental Congress.
- July 3 – American Revolution: George Washington takes command of the 17,000-man Continental Army at Cambridge.
- July 5 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress sends the Olive Branch Petition, hoping for a reconciliation.
- July 6 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress issues Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, which contains the words: "Our cause is just. Our union is perfect... being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves...".
- July 26 – The Second Continental Congress appoints Benjamin Franklin to be the first Postmaster General of what later becomes the United States Post Office Department.
- July 30 – Second voyage of James Cook: HMS Resolution anchors off the south coast of England, Captain Cook having completed the first eastabout global circumnavigation.
- August 18 – Tucson is founded.
- August 21 – American Revolution – Siege of Fort St. Jean: American rebels launch an invasion of Canada.
- August 23 – American Revolution: Refusing to even look at the Olive Branch Petition, King George issues a Proclamation of Rebellion against the American colonies.
- August 29 – September 12 – The Independence Hurricane from South Carolina to Nova Scotia kills 4,170, mostly fishermen and sailors.
- September 8 – The unsuccessful Rising of the Priests in Malta.
- September 25 – American Revolution: Siege of Fort St. Jean – Battle of Longue-Pointe: Thirteen Colonies revolutionary forces under Maj. Ethan Allen attack Montreal in Quebec, commanded by British General Guy Carleton. Allen's forces are defeated, and Allen himself is captured and held on British ships until he is later released.
- October – The Sayre Plotters attempt to kidnap George III of Great Britain.
- October 13 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress orders the establishment of the Continental Navy (later the United States Navy).
- October 18 – American Revolution: Burning of Falmouth by ships of the Royal Navy commanded by Henry Mowat, who had been humiliated by local militiamen on May 9th.
- October 26 – American Revolution: George III announces to Parliament that the American colonies are in an uprising and must be dealt with accordingly.
- November – American Revolution: Colonel Richard Richardson's South Carolina revolutionaries march through Ninety-Six District in what becomes known as the Snow Campaign, effectively ending all major support for the Loyalist cause in the backcountry of South Carolina.
- November 10 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress passes a resolution creating the Continental Marines to serve as landing troops for the recently created Continental Navy (the Marines are disbanded at end of the war in April 1783 but reformed on July 11, 1798 as the United States Marine Corps).
- November 13 – American Revolution – Battle of Montreal: American forces under Brigadier General Richard Montgomery capture Montreal. British General Guy Carleton escapes to Quebec.
- November 17 – John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore offers freedom to slaves who join the loyalist army, thus losing the support of most planters, who see slaves as their vital livelihood.
- December 5 – American Revolution: Henry Knox begins his journey to Cambridge, Massachusetts with the artillery that has been captured from Fort Ticonderoga.
- December 9 – American Revolution: Battle of Great Bridge: Victory by the Continental Army and militia leads to withdrawal of the British from the Colony of Virginia.
- December 31 – American Revolution: Battle of Quebec: British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec.
- Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
- Catherine the Great decrees a Statute for the Administration of the Provinces of the Russian Empire dividing the country into provinces and districts for efficient government.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart writes his five violin concertos in Salzburg at about this date.
- Great Fire of Tartu.
- A smallpox epidemic begins in New England.
- Tseax Cone in northwestern British Columbia erupts.
- Typhoon Liengkieki devastates the Pacific atoll of Pingelap.
- January 1 – American Revolutionary War: Burning of Norfolk: The town of Norfolk, Virginia, is destroyed by the combined actions of the British Royal Navy and occupying Patriot forces.
- January 10 – American Revolution: Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet Common Sense "written by an Englishman" in Philadelphia arguing for independence from British rule in the Thirteen Colonies.
- January 20 – American Revolution: South Carolina Loyalists led by Robert Cunningham sign a petition from prison agreeing to all demands for peace by the formed state government of South Carolina.
- January 24 – American Revolution: Henry Knox arrives at Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the artillery that he has transported from Fort Ticonderoga
- February 17 – Edward Gibbon publishes the first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
- February 27 – American Revolution: Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge: Scottish North Carolina Loyalists charge across Moore's Creek bridge near Wilmington to attack what they mistakenly believe to be a small force of rebels. Several loyalist leaders are killed in the ensuing battle. The patriot victory virtually ends all British authority in the province.
- March 2–3 – American Revolutionary War:
- March 4 – American Revolutionary War: American Patriots capture Dorchester Heights dominating the port of Boston.
- March 9 – Scottish economist Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations in London.
- March 17 – American Revolutionary War: Threatened by Patriot cannons on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuate Boston, ending the 11‑month Siege of Boston.
- March 28 – Juan Bautista de Anza finds the site for the Presidio of San Francisco.
- April 12 – American Revolution: The Royal Colony of North Carolina produces the Halifax Resolves making it the first British colony officially to authorize its Continental Congress delegates to vote for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
- May 1 – Adam Weishaupt founds the Illuminati in Ingolstadt, Bavaria.
- May 4 – Rhode Island becomes the first American colony to renounce allegiance to King George III of Great Britain.
- May 15–26 – American Revolution: Battle of The Cedars: British forces skirmish with the American Continental Army around Les Cèdres, Quebec.
- June 7 – American Revolution: Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposes to the Second Continental Congress (meeting in Philadelphia) that "these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."
- June 8 – American Revolution: Battle of Trois-Rivières: The invading American Continental Army is driven back at Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
- June 11 – American Revolution: The Continental Congress appoints a Committee of Five to draft a Declaration of Independence.
- June 12 – American Revolution: Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason adopted by the Virginia Convention of Delegates.
- June 15 – American Revolution: Delaware Separation Day: The Delaware General Assembly votes to suspend government under the British Crown.
- June 17 – Lt. José Joaquín Moraga leads a band of colonists from Monterey Presidio, landing on June 29 and, with Father Francisco Palóu, constructing the Mission San Francisco de Asís ("Mission Dolores") of the new Presidio of San Francisco, the oldest surviving building in the modern-day city.
- June 29 – American Revolution: Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet – The American Continental Navy successfully challenges the British Royal Navy blockade off New Jersey.
- July 2 – American Revolution: The final (despite minor revisions) U.S. Declaration of Independence is written. The Continental Congress passes the Lee Resolution.
- July 4 – American Revolution: United States Declaration of Independence: The Continental Congress ratifies the declaration by the United States of its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
- July 8 – American Revolution: The Liberty Bell rings in Philadelphia for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
- July 9 – American Revolution: An angry mob in New York City topples the equestrian statue of George III of Great Britain in Bowling Green.
- July 12 – Captain James Cook sets off from Plymouth, England, in HMS Resolution on his third voyage, to the Pacific Ocean and Arctic, which will be fatal.
- July 21 – Mozart's Serenade No. 7 (the "Haffner") is first performed in Salzburg, Austria.
- July 29 – Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, Francisco Atanasio Domínguez, and eight other Spaniards set out from Santa Fe on an eighteen-hundred mile trek through the American Southwest. They are the first Europeans to explore the vast region between the Rockies and the Sierras.
- August 2 – Most of the American colonies ratify the Declaration of Independence.
- August 15 – American Revolution: First Hessian troops land on Staten Island to join British forces.
- August 27 – American Revolution: Battle of Long Island: Washington's troops routed in Brooklyn by British under William Howe.
- September – First running of the St. Leger Stakes horse race in England.
- September 1 – Invasion of Cherokee Nation by 6,000 patriot troops from Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina begins. The troops destroy thirty-six Cherokee towns. 
- September 6 – Hurricane hits Guadeloupe, killing more than 6000 people.
- September 7 – American Revolution: World's first submarine attack. American submersible craft Turtle attempts to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe's flagship HMS Eagle in New York Harbor.
- September 11 – American Revolution: abortive peace conference between British and Americans on Staten Island.
- September 15 – American Revolution: Landing at Kip's Bay: British troops land on Manhattan at Kips Bay.
- September 16 – American Revolution: Battle of Harlem Heights: The Continental Army under Washington are victorious against the British on Manhattan.
- September 22 – American Revolution: Nathan Hale executed in New York City for espionage.
- October 7 – Crown Prince Paul of Russia marries Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.
- October 9 – Father Francisco Palóu founds the Mission San Francisco de Asís in what is now San Francisco.
- October 11 – American Revolution: Battle of Valcour Island: On Lake Champlain near Valcour Island, a British fleet led by Sir Guy Carleton defeats 15 American gunboats commanded by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold. Although nearly all of Arnold's ships are destroyed, the two day-long battle will give Patriot forces enough time to prepare defenses of New York City.
- October 18 – American Revolution: Battle of Pell's Point: Troops of the American Continental Army resist a British and Hessian force in The Bronx.
- October 28 – American Revolution: Battle of White Plains: British forces arrive at White Plains, attack and capture Chatterton Hill from the Americans.
- October 31 – In his first speech before British Parliament since the Declaration of Independence that summer, King George III acknowledges that all is not going well for Britain in the war with the United States.
- November 16 – American Revolution: Hessian mercenaries under Lieutenant General Wilhelm von Knyphausen capture Fort Washington from the American Continentals. The captain of the American navy ship Andrew Doria fires a salute to the Dutch flag on Fort Oranje and Johannes de Graaff answers with eleven gun shots.
- December 5 – The Phi Beta Kappa Society is founded at the College of William & Mary.
- December 7 – American Revolution: the Marquis de Lafayette attempts to enter the American military as a major general.
- December 21 – American Revolution: The Royal Colony of North Carolina reorganizes into the State of North Carolina after adopting its own constitution. Richard Caswell becomes the first governor of the newly formed state.
- December 23 – American Revolution: Thomas Paine, living with Washington's troops, begins publishing The American Crisis, containing the stirring phrase, "These are the times that try men's souls."
- December 25 – American Revolution: Gen. George Washington orders the first issue of The Crisis read to his troops on Christmas Eve, then at 6 p.m. all 2600 of them march to McKonkey's Ferry, cross the Delaware River and land on the Jersey bank at 3 a.m.
- December 26 – American Revolution: Battle of Trenton: Washington's troops surprise the 1500 Hessian troops under the command of Col. Johann Rall at 8 a.m. outside Trenton and score a victory, taking 948 prisoners while suffering only 5 wounded.
- January 2 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of the Assunpink Creek: American general George Washington's army defeats the British under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis in a second battle at Trenton, New Jersey.
- January 3 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Princeton: American general George Washington's army again defeats the British.
- January 12 – Mission Santa Clara de Asís is founded in what is now Santa Clara, California.
- January 15 – Vermont declares its independence from New York, becoming the Vermont Republic, an independent country, a status it retains until it joins the United States as the 14th state in 1791.
- March – Third voyage of James Cook: English explorer Captain Cook discovers Mangaia and Atiu in the Cook Islands.
- February 24 – King Joseph I of Portugal dies & is succeeded by his brother & son in law Peter III of Portugal
- April 1 – Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's play Sturm und Drang is premiered by the Seyler Theatre Company in Leipzig, giving its name to the whole Sturm und Drang movement in German literature.
- April 13 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Bound Brook: A British and Hessian force led by Charles Cornwallis surprises a Continental Army outpost in New Jersey commanded by Major General Benjamin Lincoln.
- May 8 – First performance of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy of manners The School for Scandal at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London.
- May 16 – Lachlan McIntosh and Button Gwinnett shoot each other during a duel near Savannah, Georgia. Gwinnett, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, dies 3 days later.
- June 13 – American Revolution: The Marquis de Lafayette lands near Georgetown, South Carolina, to help the Continental Congress train its army.
- June 14 – The Stars and Stripes is adopted by the Continental Congress as the flag of the United States.
- July 6 – American Revolutionary War – Siege of Fort Ticonderoga: After a bombardment by British artillery under General John Burgoyne, American forces retreat from Fort Ticonderoga, New York.
- August 6 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Oriskany: Loyalists gain a tactical victory over Patriots; Iroquois fight on both sides.
- August 16 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Bennington: British and Brunswicker forces are decisively defeated by American troops.
- September 3 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Cooch's Bridge: British and Hessian forces defeat American militia in a minor skirmish in New Castle County, Delaware.
- September 11 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Brandywine: The British gain a major victory in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
- September 19 – American Revolutionary War – First Battle of Saratoga: Battle of Freeman's Farm: Patriot forces withstand a British attack at Saratoga, New York
- September 26 – American Revolutionary War – British troops occupy Philadelphia; members of the Continental Congress flee to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- October 4 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Germantown: Troops under George Washington are repelled by British troops under Sir William Howe.
- October 7 – American Revolutionary War – Second Battle of Saratoga: Battle of Bemis Heights: British General John Burgoyne is defeated by American troops.
- October 17 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Saratoga: British General John Burgoyne surrenders to the American troops.
- November 15 – American Revolution: After 16 months of debate, the Continental Congress approves the Articles of Confederation in the temporary American capital at York, Pennsylvania.
- November 17 – American Revolution: The Articles of Confederation are submitted to the states for ratification.
- November 29 – San Jose, California is founded. It is the first pueblo in Spanish Alta California.
- December 19 – American Revolutionary War: George Washington's Continental Army goes into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
- December 24 – Third voyage of James Cook: English explorer Captain Cook discovers Kiritimati (Christmas Island).
- December 30 – Maximilian III Joseph, Elector of Bavaria dies & is succeeded by his distant cousin Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria.
- The 2nd edition of Encyclopædia Britannica is published.
- The code duello is adopted at the Clonmel Summer Assizes as the form for pistol duels in Ireland. It is quickly denounced but nevertheless widely adopted throughout the English-speaking world.
- Kunsthochschule Kassel is founded.
- January 18 – Third voyage of James Cook: Captain James Cook, with ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, first views Oahu then Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands of the Pacific Ocean, which he names the Sandwich Islands.
- February 5 – South Carolina becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation.
- February 6 – American Revolutionary War: In Paris the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce are signed by the United States and France, signaling official French recognition of the new republic.
- February 23 – American Revolutionary War: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and begins to train the American troops.
- March 6–October 24 – Captain Cook explores and maps the Pacific Northwest coast of North America from Cape Foulweather (Oregon) to the Bering Strait.
- March 10 – American Revolutionary War: George Washington approves the dishonorable discharge of Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin for "attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier".
- May 30 – Benedict Arnold signs US oath of allegiance at Valley Forge
- June 24 – A total solar eclipse takes place across parts of USA from Texas to Virginia.
- June 28 – American Revolutionary War – Battle of Monmouth: George Washington's Continental Army battles the British general Sir Henry Clinton's army to a draw near Monmouth County, New Jersey.
- July 3 – American Revolutionary War: the Wyoming Massacre takes place near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, ending in a terrible defeat of the local colonists.
- July 4 – American Revolutionary War: George Rogers Clark takes Kaskaskia.
- July 10 – Louis XVI of France declares war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.
- July 27 – American Revolutionary War – First Battle of Ushant: British and French fleets fight to a standoff.
- August 3 – La Scala opera house in Milan opens with the première of Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.
- August 26 – Triglav, at 2,864 meters above sea level the highest peak of Slovenia, is ascended for the first time by four men: Luka Korošec, Matevž Kos, Štefan Rožič, and Lovrenc Willomitzer on Sigmund Zois' initiative.
- August 29 – American Revolutionary War: The tactically inconclusive Battle of Rhode Island takes place, after which the Continental Army abandons its position on Aquidneck Island.
- September – The Massachusetts Banishment Act, providing punishment for Loyalists, is passed.
- September 7 – American Revolutionary War: French invasion of Dominica captures the British fort there before the latter is aware that France has entered the war in the Franco-American alliance.
- September 17 – The Treaty of Fort Pitt is signed, the first formal treaty between the United States and a Native American tribe (the Lenape or Delaware).
- September 19 – The Continental Congress passes the first budget of the United States.
- November 26 – In the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to land on Maui.
- The first settlement is made in the area of what is now Louisville, Kentucky, by 13 families under Colonel George Rogers Clark.
- Phillips Academy, the most prestigious secondary boarding school in the United States, is founded by Samuel Phillips Jr.
- The term "thoroughbred" is first used in the United States in an advertisement in a Kentucky gazette to describe a New Jersey stallion called Pilgarlick.
- Thomas Kitchin's The Present State of the West-Indies: Containing an Accurate Description of What Parts Are Possessed by the Several Powers in Europe is published in London.
- January 9 – British troops surrender to the Marathas in Wadgaon, India, and are forced to return all territories acquired since 1773.
- January 11 – Ching-Thang Khomba is crowned King of Manipur.
- January 22 – American Revolutionary War: Claudius Smith is hanged at Goshen, Orange County, New York for supposed acts of terrorism upon the people of the surrounding communities.
- January 29 – After a second petition for partition from its residents, the North Carolina General Assembly abolishes Bute County, North Carolina (established 1764) by dividing it and naming the northern portion Warren County (for Revolutionary War hero Joseph Warren) and the southern portion Franklin County (for Benjamin Franklin). The General Assembly also establishes Warrenton (also named for Joseph Warren) to be the county seat of Warren County and Louisburg (named for Louis XVI of France) to be the county seat of Franklin County.
- February 14 – Captain James Cook dies on the Sandwich Islands on his third and last voyage.
- March 10 – Treaty of Aynalıkavak between Ottoman Turkey and Russian Empire about Crimean Khanate.
- May 13 – War of the Bavarian Succession: Russian and French mediators at the Congress of Teschen negotiate an end to the war. In the agreement Austria receives a part of the Bavarian territory (the Innviertel) and relinquishes the rest.
- June 1 – American Revolutionary War: Benedict Arnold is court-martialed for malfeasance in his treatment of government property.
- June 16 – American Revolutionary War: In support of the U.S., Spain declares war on England.
- July 16 – American Revolutionary War: United States forces led by General Anthony Wayne capture Stony Point, New York from British troops.
- July 20 – Tekle Giyorgis I begins the first of his five reigns as Emperor of Ethiopia.
- July 22 – Battle of Minisink: The Goshen Militia is destroyed by Joseph Brant's forces.
- July 24 – American Revolutionary War: American forces led by Commodore Dudley Saltonstall launch the Penobscot Expedition in what is now Castine, Maine, resulting in the worst naval defeat in U.S. history until Pearl Harbor.
- July – The Great Siege of Gibraltar (fourteenth and last military siege) starts. This is an action by French and Spanish forces to wrest control of Gibraltar from the established British garrison. The garrison, led by George Augustus Eliott, later 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, survives all attacks and a blockade of supplies.
- September – Battle of Baton Rouge: Spanish troops under Bernardo de Gálvez capture the city from the British.
- September 14 - September 15 - Little Beard's Town is burnt by the Sullivan Expedition
- September 23 – American Revolution – Battle of Flamborough Head: The American ship Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, engages the British ship HMS Serapis. The Bonhomme Richard sinks, but the Americans board the Serapis and other vessels, and are victorious.
- October 4 – The Fort Wilson Riot takes place.
- November 2 – The North Carolina General Assembly carves a new county from Dobbs County, North Carolina and names it Wayne County in honor of United States General Anthony Wayne.
- December 13 – Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais marries Joséphine Tascher.
- December 25 – Fort Nashborough, later to become Nashville, Tennessee, is founded by James Robertson.
- Industrial Revolution in England:
- The Iron Bridge is erected across the River Severn in Shropshire, the world's first bridge built entirely of cast iron. It will open to traffic on January 1, 1781.
- The spinning mule is perfected by the Lancashire inventor Samuel Crompton.
- Boulton and Watt's Smethwick Engine, now the oldest working engine in the world, is brought into service (May).
- The city of Tampere, Finland, is founded.
- Joint Spanish-Portuguese survey of Amazonia begins to determine the boundary between the colonial possessions in South America. Continues until 1795.
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