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English Literature

  • Period: 410 to 1066

    Old English

    English literature begins with the Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, period, which began approximately 410 A.D. when the Romans withdrew from Britain, leaving it to Germanic and Scandinavian settlers. The Old English period ended with the Norman invasion of 1066, when French became the language of the educated classes.
  • 731

    The Venerable Bede

    The Venerable Bede
    The Venerable Bede, in his monastery at Jarrow, completes his history of the English church and people
  • 800


    Beowulf, the first great work of Germanic literature, mingles the legends of Scandinavia with the experience in England of Angles and Saxons
  • 950


    The material of the Eddas, taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain and Burgundy
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English

    Middle English, best known as the language of Geoffrey Chaucer. Middle English gave way to modern English during the Middle Ages, and Britain produced many great authors during the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • 1300

    Subtle Doctor

    Subtle Doctor
    Duns Scotus, known as the Subtle Doctor in medieval times, later provides humanists with the name Dunsman or dunce
  • 1340

    Ockham's Razor

    Ockham's Razor
    William of Ockham advocates paring down arguments to their essentials, an approach later known as Ockham's Razor
  • 1367

    Piers Plowman

    Piers Plowman
    A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem of Piers Plowman considered by many critics to be one of the greatest works of English literature of the Middle Ages, even preceding and influencing Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
  • 1375

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    The courtly poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells of a mysterious visitor to the round table of King Arthur
  • 1385

    Troilus and Criseyde

    Troilus and Criseyde
    Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about a legendary love affair in ancient Troy
  • 1387

    Canterbury Tales

    Canterbury Tales
    Chaucer begins an ambitious scheme for 100 Canterbury Tales, of which he completes only 24 by the time of his death
  • 1469

    Morte d'Arthur

    Morte d'Arthur
    Thomas Malory, in gaol somewhere in England, compiles Morte d'Arthur – an English account of the French tales of King Arthur
  • Period: 1500 to

    English Renaissance

    Christopher Marlowe revolutionized English literature. Several of his plays had enjoyed great success, setting the stage for the English Renaissance and opening the door for other poets and playwrights, most notably William Shakespeare.
  • 1510

    Erasmus and Thomas More

    Erasmus and Thomas More
    Erasmus and Thomas More take the northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism
  • 1524

    William Tyndale and the Bible

    William Tyndale and the Bible
    William Tyndale studies in the university at Wittenberg and plans to translate the Bible into English
  • 1562

    Marlowe and Shakespeare

    Marlowe and Shakespeare
    Marlowe and Shakespeare are born in the same year, with Marlowe the older by two months
  • Tamburlaine the Great

    Tamburlaine the Great
    Marlowe's first play, Tamburlaine the Great, introduces the swaggering blank verse of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama
  • The Faerie Queene

    The Faerie Queene
    English poet Edmund Spenser celebrates the Protestant Elizabeth I as The Faerie Queene
  • Richard III - Shakespeare

    Richard III - Shakespeare
    After tentative beginnings in the three parts of Henry VI, Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece on stage with Richard III
  • Hamlet

    Shakespeare's central character in Hamlet expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age
  • The Tempest

    The Tempest
    Shakespeare's last completed play, The Tempest, is performed
  • First Folio - Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies

    First Folio - Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies
    John Heminge and Henry Condell publish thirty-six Shakespeare plays in the First Folio, the most influential books ever published
  • Period: to


    Puritan standards prevailed in England, and also because the greatest literary figure John Milton (1608-1674) was a Puritan. The Puritans struggled for righteousness and liberty.
  • Lycidas

    John Milton's Lycidas is published in memory of a Cambridge friend, Edward King
  • Period: to

    Restoration Age

    It corresponds to the last years of the direct Stuart reign in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In general, the term is used to denote roughly homogeneous styles of literature that center on a celebration of or reaction to the restored court of Charles II. The period witnessed news become a commodity, the essay developed into a periodical art form, and the beginnings of textual criticism.
  • Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost
    Paradise Lost is published, earning its author John Milton just £10 but considered to be Milton's major work.
  • Oroonoko

    Aphra Behn's novel Oroonoko makes an early protest against the inhumanity of the African slave trade
  • Essay concerning Human Understanding

    Essay concerning Human Understanding
    John Locke publishes his Essay concerning Human Understanding, arguing that all knowledge is based on experience
  • Period: to

    18th Century

    Is famous for its essayists and satirists and for the appearance of the novel and its precursors.
  • George Berkeley

    George Berkeley
    25-year-old George Berkeley, one of the great philosophers of the early modern period, attacks Locke in his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    English historian Edward Gibbon publishes the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Robinson Crusoe

    Robinson Crusoe
    Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, with its detailed realism, can be seen as the first English novel
  • Gulliver's Travels

    Gulliver's Travels
    Jonathan Swift sends his hero on a series of bitterly satirical travels in Gulliver's Travels
  • Edward Lear

    Edward Lear
    Edward Lear publishes his Book of Nonsense, consisting of limericks illustrated with his own cartoons
  • Clarissa

    Samuel Richardson's Clarissa begins the correspondence that grows into the longest novel in the English language
  • Dictionary of the English Language

    Dictionary of the English Language
    Samuel Johnson publishes his magisterial Dictionary of the English Language
  • Thomas Chatterton

    Thomas Chatterton
    17-year-old Thomas Chatterton later hailed as a significant poet, commits suicide in a London garret. He influenced Romantic artists such as Percy Shelley and John Keats
  • William Blake

    William Blake
    William Blake publishes Songs of Innocence, a volume of his poems with every page etched and illustrated by himself
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
    English author Mary Wollstonecraft publishes a passionately feminist work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • Age of Reason

    Age of Reason
    Thomas Paine publishes his completed Age of Reason, an attack on conventional Christianity
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Founder of the English Romantic Movement. His poem 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' is published in Lyrical Ballads
  • Period: to


    Artistic and literary movement that came to England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and had a profound impact on English literature. English Romantic literature is characterized by a love of nature, distrust of reason, and the rejection of traditional authority.
  • Lady of the Lake

    Lady of the Lake
    Walter Scott's poem Lady of the Lake brings tourists in unprecedented numbers to Scotland's Loch Katrine
  • Jane Austen

    Jane Austen
    English author Jane Austen publishes her first work in print, Sense and Sensibility, at her own expense
  • Lord Byron

    Lord Byron
    The first two cantos are published of Byron's, one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement, largely autobiographical poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, bringing him immediate fame
  • Pride and Prejudice

    Pride and Prejudice
    Pride and Prejudice, based on a youthful work of 1797 called First Impressions, is the second of Jane Austen's novels to be published
  • Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus

    Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
    Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about giving life to an artificial man
  • John Keats

    John Keats
    English poet John Keats publishes Ode to a Nightingale, inspired by the bird's song in his Hampstead garden
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens
    24-year-old Charles Dickens begins monthly publication of his first work of fiction, Pickwick Papers (published in book form in 1837)
  • Oliver Twist

    Oliver Twist
    Charles Dickens' first novel, Oliver Twist, begins monthly publication (in book form, 1838
  • Period: to


    The Victorian period, which lasted from the mid-1800s to the beginning of the twentieth century, includes the love poems of Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson's sweeping saga of Camelot entitled "Idylls of the King," and the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure stories and novels, including his famous "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
  • A Christmas Carol

     A Christmas Carol
    Ebenezer Scrooge mends his ways just in time in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
  • Brontë sisters

    Brontë sisters
    The three Brontë sisters jointly publish a volume of their poems and sell just two copies
  • Jane Eyre

     Jane Eyre
    Charlotte becomes the first of the Brontë sisters to have a novel published, Jane Eyre
  • Wuthering Heights

    Wuthering Heights
    Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights follows just two months after her sister Charlotte's Jane Eyre
  • David Copperfield

    David Copperfield
    Charles Dickens begins the publication in monthly numbers of David Copperfield, his own favorite among his novels
  • In Memoriam

    In Memoriam
    Alfred Tennyson's, the most renowned poet of the Victorian era, elegy for a friend, In Memoriam, captures perfectly the Victorian mood of heightened sensibility
  • On the Origin of Species

    On the Origin of Species
    Charles Darwin puts forward the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, the result of 20 years' research
  • A Tale of Two Cities

    A Tale of Two Cities
    Charles Dickens publishes his French Revolution novel, A Tale of Two Cities
  • East Lynne

    East Lynne
    Mrs Henry Wood publishes her first novel, East Lynne, which becomes the basis of the most popular of all Victorian melodramas
  • Lewis Carroll

    Lewis Carroll
    Oxford mathematician Lewis Carroll tells 10-year-old Alice Liddell, on a boat trip, a story about her own adventures in Wonderland
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
    Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a development of the story he had told Alice Liddell three years earlier
  • Through the Looking Glass

    Through the Looking Glass
    Lewis Carroll publishes Through the Looking Glass, a second story of Alice's adventures
  • Far from the Madding Crowd

    Far from the Madding Crowd
    English author Thomas Hardy has his first success with his novel Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Tess of the Durbervilles

    Tess of the Durbervilles
    Thomas Hardy publishes his novel Tess of the Durbervilles, with a dramatic finale at Stonehenge
  • Treasure Island

    Treasure Island
    Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure story, Treasure Island, features Long John Silver and Ben Gunn
  • New English Dictionary

    New English Dictionary
    Oxford University Press publishes the A volume of its New English Dictionary, which will take 37 years to reach Z
  • H.G. Wells

    H.G. Wells
    H.G. Wells publishes The Time Machine, a story about a Time Traveller whose first stop on his journey is the year 802701
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Louis Stevenson introduces a dual personality in his novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Arthur Conan Doyle

    Arthur Conan Doyle
    Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle's first novel, A Study in Scarlet
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Oscar Wilde publishes his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray in which the ever-youthful hero's portrait grows old and ugly
  • Rudyard Kipling

    Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book surrounds the child Mowgli with a collection of vivid animal guardians
  • Dracula

    English author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula, his gothic tale of vampirism in Transylvania
  • The War of the Worlds

    The War of the Worlds
    H.G. Wells publishes his science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, in which Martians arrive in a rocket to invade earth
  • Henry James,

    Henry James,
    Henry James, a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism publishes The Turn of the Screw in a collection of short stories. Is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit

     The Tale of Peter Rabbit
    Beatrix Potter publishes at her own expense The Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Period: to

    Modern Literature

    The turn of the 20th century saw the rise of modernism, a movement characterized by stylistic experimentation and the questioning of traditional values.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles

    The Hound of the Baskervilles
    Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles begins publication in serial form, featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes
  • James Matthew Barrie

    James Matthew Barrie
    J.M Barrie's play for children Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up has its premiere in London
  • The Bloomsbury Group

    The Bloomsbury Group
    The Bloomsbury Group gathers for informal evenings at the family home of Virginia and Vanessa Stephens (later Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell)
  • New Woman

    New Woman
    The heroine of H.G. Wells' novel Ann Veronica is a determined example of the New Woman
  • If

    Rudyard Kipling publishes If, which rapidly becomes his most popular poem among the British
  • Somerset Maugham

    Somerset Maugham
    Somerset Maugham, one of the most popular authors of his era, and reputedly the highest paid of his profession during the 1930s publishes his semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage.
  • Virginia Woolf

    Virginia Woolf
    The English writer Virginia Woolf, one of the most important modernist 20th-century author, publishes her first novel, The Voyage Out
  • John Maynard Keynes

    John Maynard Keynes
    In The Economic Consequences of the Peace Maynard Keynes publishes a strong attack on the reparations demanded from Germany
  • Agatha Christie

    Agatha Christie
    The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot features in Agatha Christie's first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • T.S. Eliot

    T.S. Eliot
    American-born poet T.S. Eliot, also considered one of the 20th century's major poets, publishes The Waste Land, an extremely influential poem in five fragmented sections
  • Mrs. Dalloway

    Mrs. Dalloway
    Virginia Woolf publishes her novel Mrs. Dalloway, in which the action is limited to a single day
  • A.A. Milne

    A.A. Milne
    Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the others make their first appearance in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh
  • To The Lighthouse

    To The Lighthouse
    Virginia Woolf uses a Hebridean holiday as the setting for her narrative in, To The Lighthouse
  • R.C. Sherriff

    R.C. Sherriff
    Set in a World War I trench, the play Journey's End reflects the wartime experiences of its British author, R.C. Sherriff
  • Marguerite Radclyffe Hall

    Marguerite Radclyffe Hall
    Radclyffe Hall's novel The Well of Loneliness is the first to deal openly with a lesbian subject
  • C.S. Lewis

     C.S. Lewis
    British author C.S. Lewis publishes a moral parable, The Screwtape Letters, about the problems confronting a trainee devil
  • Aldous Huxley

    Aldous Huxley
    British author Aldous Huxley gives a bleak view of a science-based future in his novel Brave New World, one of the most famous dystopian science-fiction novels in the English language.
  • The Shape of Things to Come

    The Shape of Things to Come
    H.G. Wells publishes The Shape of Things to Come, a novel in which he accurately predicts a renewal of world war
  • Allen Lane and Penguin Books

    Allen Lane and Penguin Books
    British publisher Allen Lane launches a paperback series to which he gives the name Penguin Books
  • Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

    Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
    T.S. Eliot gives cats a poetic character in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a book that later serves as the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1981 musical Cats
  • Flann O'Brien

    Flann O'Brien
    Flann O'Brien, regarded as a key figure in modernist and postmodern literature, novel The Third Policeman is rejected by numerous publishers before becoming, decades later, his best-known novel
  • Period: to

    Post Modernism

    Postmodern literature is a form of literature which is marked, both stylistically and ideologically, by a reliance on such literary conventions as fragmentation, paradox, unreliable narrators, often unrealistic and downright impossible plots, games, parody, paranoia, dark humor and authorial self-reference.
  • Evelyn Waugh

    Evelyn Waugh
    Evelyn Waugh publishes Brideshead Revisited, a novel about a rich Catholic family in England between the wars
  • Animal Farm

    Animal Farm
    In George Orwell's fable Animal Farm a ruthless pig, Napoleon, controls the farmyard using the techniques of Stalin
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four

    Nineteen Eighty-Four
    George Orwell publishes Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel set in a terrifying totalitarian state of the future, watched over by Big Brother
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

    The Chronicles of Narnia
    C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Ian Fleming

    Ian Fleming
    James Bond, agent 007, has a licence to kill in Ian Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale
  • Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood - BBC radio

    Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood - BBC radio
    Dylan Thomas's 'play for voices', Under Milk Wood, is broadcast on BBC radio, with Richard Burton as narrator, was a milestone of BBC radio broadcasting
  • J.R.R. Tolkien

    J.R.R. Tolkien
    British philologist J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the third and final volume of his epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings, one of the best-selling books ever written
  • Ted Hughes

    Ted Hughes
    The Hawk in the Rain is English author Ted Hughes', one of the best poets of his generation and one of the twentieth century's greatest writers, first volume of poems
  • Roald Dahl

    Roald Dahl
    British author Roald Dahl publishes a novel for children, James and the Giant Peach. He became one of the world's best-selling authors and also known as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century".
  • The Golden Notebook

    The Golden Notebook
    British author Doris Lessing publishes an influential feminist novel, The Golden Notebook. Awarded in 2007 with the Nobel Prize in Literature is the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Anthony Burgess

    Anthony Burgess
    Anthony Burgess publishes A Clockwork Orange, a novel depicting a disturbing and violent near-future
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Roald Dahl publishes a fantasy treat for a starving child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes

    A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes
    British physicist Stephen Hawking explains the cosmos for the general reader in A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes
  • Sebastian Faulks

    Sebastian Faulks
    English novelist Sebastian Faulks publishes Birdsong, set partly in the trenches of World War I
  • Irvine Welsh

    Irvine Welsh
    Scottish author Irvine Welsh publishes his first novel, Trainspotting
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin

    Captain Corelli's Mandolin
    Louis de Bernières, elected as one of the "20 Best of Young British Novelists", publishes Captain Corelli's Mandolin, a love story set in Italian-occupied Cephalonia
  • Birthday Letters

    Birthday Letters
    The poems forming Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters describe his relationship with Sylvia Plath
  • Harry Potter is born

    Harry Potter is born
    A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Copenhagen

    Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen dramatizes the visit of Werner Heisenberg to Niels Bohr in wartime Denmark
  • His Dark Materials

    His Dark Materials
    The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials
  • Period: to


    Works of contemporary literature reflect a society's social and/or political viewpoints, shown through realistic characters, connections to current events, and socioeconomic messages. The writers are looking for trends that illuminate societal strengths and weaknesses to remind society of lessons they should learn and questions they should ask.
  • Atonement

    McEwan’s Atonement worked masterly variations on the 1930s fictional procedures of authors such as Elizabeth Bowen.
  • The History Boys

    The History Boys
    Bennett’s play The History Boys set in Yorkshire in the 1980s, garnered both the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for best new play, and Bennett also received the Olivier Special Award.
  • Ian McEwan

    Ian McEwan
    In Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday, the model of Virginia Woolf’s fictional presentation of a war-shadowed day in London in Mrs. Dalloway (1925).
  • Never let me go

    Never let me go
    Time magazine named it the best novel of 2005 and included the novel in its "100 Best English-language novels published since 1923 the beginning of TIME"
  • Wolf Hall

    Wolf Hall
    By Hilary Mantel. Is a sympathetic fictionalized biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More. The Observer named it as one of "The 10 best historical novels".
  • The Sense of an Ending

    The Sense of an Ending
    Considered a book that spoke to the humankind in the 21st Century, The Sense of an Ending was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
  • Neil Gaiman

    Neil Gaiman
    He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. Author of comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book.