The World in 1871

World affairs in 1871 were dominated by the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, which ended with the surrender of Paris at the end of January after a five-month siege. The complete victory of the Prussians and the allied German states saw the establishment of a unified German Empire under Wilhelm I of Prussia. Meanwhile in France, the government of the new Third Republic brutally repressed an insurrection of left-wing radicals, known as the Paris Commune. The harsh terms of the Peace of Frankfurt, which saw the annexation of Alsace and half of Lorraine by Germany, together with the mounting imperialist of the new German state, led to a Franco-German animosity which was one of the ultimate causes of the First World War. Indeed the French saw the Treaty of Versailles (1919) as an opportunity to gain revenge for the humiliation of 1871. Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France, and Germany was forced to pay huge reparations. This is turn led to a climate of resentment in Germany that contributed to the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists.

Elsewhere in 1871, Lewis Carroll published Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Charles Darwin The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, and George Elliot the first part of Middlemarch. Guiseppe Verdi's opera Aïda was performed for the first time in Cairo to mark the opening of the Suez Canal, while William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan produced their first comic operetta, Thespis. James McNeill Whistler painted a portrait of his mother, Henry Stanley tracked down David Livingstone by the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and the inventor of the computer, Charles Babbage, died in obscurity in London.

In sport, the Rugby Football Union was formed and England played Scotland in the first international rugby match (Scotland winning 1-0), while in the round-ball game the first FA Cup ties were contested. In cricket, Nottinghamshire were the county champions and W.G. Grace scored a world-record 268 playing for the South against the North at the Oval. In addition to Reading FC, other notable sports clubs founded in 1871 include Neath RFC, Worcester RFC, Southall FC and Uxbridge FC.