- January 14 - President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte proclaims a new constitution for the French Second Republic.
- January 17 - United Kingdom recognizes independence of the Transvaal
- Devil's Island penal colony opens
- February 11 - First British public toilet for women opens in Bedford Street, London
- February 15 - Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children, London, admits first patient
- February 16 - Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established
- November - Franklin Pierce defeats Winfield Scott in the U.S. presidential election
- November 7 - President Bonaparte proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III of France
- November 2/November 22 New French Empire confirmed by plebiscite: 7,824,000 for, 253,000 against
- December 2 Napoleon III crowned Emperor of France.
- April 22 - Grand Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg
- December 15 - Henri Becquerel, French physicist
- Edwin Austin Abbey, American painter
- J. R. Petri, bacteriologist, inventor of Petri dish