- Feb 7 The colonial Tasmanian Parliament passes the first piece of legislation (the Electoral Act of 1856) anywhere in the world providing for elections by way of a secret ballot.
- Mar 30 Russia signs Peace of Paris, ending the Crimean War
- Jun 17 Republican Party opens its 1st national convention in Philadelphia
- Oct 8 The Second Opium War or second Anglo-Chinese War: begins with the Arrow Incident on the Pearl River
Victoria Cross established to acknowledge valour in the face of the enemy (United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries)
On January 29, 1856