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|Centuries:||18th century – 19th century – 20th century|
|Decades:||1820s 1830s 1840s – 1850s – 1860s 1870s 1880s|
|Years:||1848 1849 1850 – 1851 – 1852 1853 1854|
|1851 in topic:|
|Archaeology – Architecture – Art – Literature – Music|
|Australia – Canada – France – Germany – Mexico – Philippines – South Africa – US – UK|
|Rail Transport – Science – Sports|
|Lists of leaders|
|Colonial Governors – State leaders|
|Birth and death categories|
|Births – Deaths|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Establishments – Disestablishments|
|Ab urbe condita||2604|
|British Regnal year||14 Vict. 1 – 15 Vict. 1|
|Chinese calendar|| 庚戌年十一月廿九日
— to —辛亥年十一月初十日
|- Vikram Samvat||1907–1908|
|- Shaka Samvat||1773–1774|
|- Kali Yuga||4952–4953|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||851–852|
|Japanese calendar|| Kaei 4
|Juche calendar||N/A (before 1912)|
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 12 days|
|Minguo calendar||61 before ROC
|Thai solar calendar||2394|
1851 (MDCCCLI) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar and a common year starting on Monday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar).
- January 11 – Taiping Rebellion: Hong Xiuquan officially begins the Taiping Rebellion.
- January 15 – Christian Female College, now Columbia College, receives its charter from the Missouri General Assembly.
- January 23 – The flip of a coin determines whether a new city in the Oregon Territory is named after Boston, Massachusetts, or Portland, Maine, with Portland winning.
- January 28 – Northwestern University is founded.
- February 12 – Edward Hargraves claims to have found gold in Australia.
- February 15 – In Boston, Massachusetts, members of the anti-slavery Boston Vigilance Committee rescue fugitive slave Shadrach Minkins from a courtroom following his arrest by US marshals.
- March 1 – Victor Hugo uses the phrase United States of Europe in a speech to the French National Assembly.
- March 11 – Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto is first performed at La Fenice in Venice.
- March 27 – The first white men reportedly see Yosemite Valley.
- March 30 – A population census is taken in the United Kingdom.
- April 9 – San Luis, the oldest permanent settlement in the state of Colorado, is founded by settlers from Taos, New Mexico.
- April 20 – Ramón Castilla loses power in Peru.
- April 21 – John Stuart Mill marries Harriet Taylor.
- April 28 – Santa Clara College is chartered in Santa Clara, California.
- May 1 – The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London is opened by Queen Victoria (it runs until October 18).
- May 15
- Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, the first secret society for women, is founded at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia.
- Mongkut (Rama IV) is crowned King of Siam at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
- Mid-May to mid-July – The Great Flood of 1851: extensive flooding across Midwest U.S., town of Des Moines virtually washed away, many rainfall records hold for 160 years.
- June 21 The immortal game, a famous chess game, is played.
- July 1
- The Colony of Victoria separates from New South Wales.
- Serial poisoner Hélène Jégado is arrested in Rennes, France.
- July 10 – The University of the Pacific is chartered as California Wesleyan College in Santa Clara, California.
- July 29 – Annibale de Gasparis, in Naples, Italy discovers asteroid 15 Eunomia.
- August 1 – Virginia closes its Reform Constitutional Convention deciding that all white men have the right to vote.
- August 22 – The yacht America wins the first America's Cup race.
- September 15 – Saint Joseph's University is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- September 18 – The New York Times is founded.
- September 30 – The Fregatten Eugenies (or the Frigate Eugenie) leaves from Karlskrona, Sweden to begin its voyage as the first Swedish Royal Navy vessel to circumnavigate the world.
- October – The Reuters news service is founded.
- October 15 – The City of Winona, Minnesota is founded.
- October 18 – The Great Exhibition in London is closed.
- October 24 – Ariel and Umbriel, moons of Uranus, are discovered by William Lassell.
- November 13
- November 14 – Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick; or The Whale is published in the U.S. by Harper & Brothers, New York, after being first published on October 18 in London by Richard Bentley, in 3 volumes as The Whale.
- December 2 – In what amounts to a coup, Louis Napoleon, president of France, dissolves the French National Assembly and declares a new constitution to extend his term. A year later he declares himself as Emperor Napoleon III, ending the Second Republic.
- December 6 – The trial of Hélène Jégado begins; she is eventually sentenced to death and executed by guillotine.
- December 9 – The first YMCA (1844) in North America is established in Montreal, Quebec.
- December 24 – The Library of Congress burns.
- December 26– December 27 – A Royal Navy warship bombards Lagos Island; Oba Kosoko is wounded and flees to Epe.
- St. Paul's College, Hong Kong is founded.
- Western Union is founded.
- The population of Britain reaches 21 million. 6.3 million live in cities of 20,000 or more in England and Wales and cities of 20,000 or more account for 35% of the total English population.
- January 17 – A. B. Frost, American illustrator (d. 1928)
- January 19 – Jacobus Kapteyn, Dutch astronomer (d. 1922)
- February 8 – Kate Chopin, American writer (d. 1904)
- February 13 – Joseph B. Murdock, United States Navy admiral and New Hampshire politician (d. 1931)
- March 14 – John Sebastian Little, American politician and congressman (d. 1916)
- March 18 – Julien Dupré, Fench artist (d. 1910)
- March 19 – William Henry Stark, business leader (d. 1936)
- March 27 – Vincent d'Indy, French composer and teacher (d. 1931)
- March 28 – Bernardino Machado, Portuguese President (d. 1944)
- April 13 – Robert Abbe, American surgeon (d. 1928)
- April 17 – Madre Teresa Nuzzo, foundress of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart (d. 1923)
- April 20 – Young Tom Morris, Scottish golfer (d. 1875)
- April 21 – Charles Barrois, French geologist (d. 1939)
- May 5 – Matthew Kapelewski, Polish-American poet and novelist (d. 1883)
- May 6 – Aristide Bruant, French cabaret singer and comedian (d. 1925)
- May 20 – Emil Berliner, telephone and recording pioneer (d. 1929)
- May 21 – Léon Bourgeois, French statesman, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1925)
- June 13 – Anton Haus, Austro-Hungarian admiral (d. 1917)
- June 21 – Frederick Green (footballer), English Footballer (d. 1928)
- June 16 – Georg Jellinek, German legal philosopher (d. 1911)
- July 8 – Arthur Evans, British archaeologist (d. 1941)
- July 15 – Eduardo Gutiérrez, Argentinian author (d. 1889)
- July 20 – Arnold Pick, Czechoslovakian neurologist and psychiatrist (d. 1924)
- July 24 – Friedrich Schottky, German mathematician (d. 1935)
- August 14 – Doc Holliday, American gambler and gunfighter (d. 1887)
- September 7 – David King Udall, American politician (d. 1938)
- September 14 – H.E. Beunke, Dutch writer (d. 1925)
- September 16 – Eduard Reuss, German composer and music biographer (d. 1911)
- September 29 – Hardwicke Rawnsley, English clergyman, poet, writer of hymns and conservationist (d. 1920)
- October 2 – Ferdinand Foch, French commander of Allied forces in World War I (d. 1929)
- October 20 – George Gandy, American entrepreneur (d. 1946)
- November 10 – Richard Armstedt, German historian (d. 1931)
- November 16 – William Elbridge Sewell, American naval officer and Governor of Guam (d. 1904)
- December 10 – Melvil Dewey, American librarian, inventor of Dewey Decimal Classification (d. 1931)
- December 20 – Dora Montefiore, English suffragist and socialist (d. 1933)
- December 30 – Asa Griggs Candler, American businessman and politician (d. 1929)
- John Robert Sitlington Sterrett, American classical scholar and archeologist (d. 1914)
- January 10 – Karl Freiherr von Müffling, Prussian field marshal (b. 1775)
- January 19 – Esteban Echeverría, Argentine poet and writer (b. 1805)
- January 23 – Archibald Primrose, Lord Dalmeny, Scottish politician (b. 1809)
- January 27 – John James Audubon, French-American naturalist and illustrator (b. 1785)
- January 31 – David Spangler Kaufman, Congressman from Texas (b. 1813)
- February 1 – Mary Shelley, English author (b. 1797)
- February 3 – Benjamin Williams Crowninshield, Congressman from Massachusetts secretary of U.S. Navy (b. 1772)
- February 18 – Carl Gustav Jakob Jacobi, German mathematician (b. 1804)
- February 23 – Joanna Baillie, Scottish poetess and dramatist (b. 1762)
- February 28 – Guillaume Dode de la Brunerie, Marshal of France (b. 1775)
- March 9 – Hans Christian Ørsted, Danish scientist (b. 1777)
- May 13 – Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg (b. 1788)
- May 22 – Mordecai Manuel Noah, American writer, journalist (b. 1785)
- July 10 – Louis Daguerre, French artist and chemist (b. 1787)
- July 17 – Roger Sheaffe, British General
- August 8 – James Shudi Broadwood, piano manufacturer (b. 1772)
- August 24 – James McDowell, American politician (b. 1795)
- September 10 – Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, American educator (b. 1787)
- September 11 – Sylvester Graham, American nutritionist and inventor (b. 1794)
- September 14 – James Fenimore Cooper, American writer (b. 1789)
- October 4 – Manuel de Godoy, Spanish statesman (b. 1767)
- October 19 – Marie Thérèse Charlotte (b. 1778)
- November 26 – Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, French marshal and politician (b. 1769)
- December 19 – Joseph Mallord William Turner, English artist (b. 1775)
- John Brown Russwurm, American abolitionist (b. 1799)