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English Literature Timeline

By Anaunad
  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English

    This period dates back to the invasion of two Germanic tribes: the Angles and the Saxons (along with the Jutes) of Celtic England circa 450. The era ends in 1066 when Norman France, under William, conquered England.
  • 731

    English church and people

    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
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English

    Huge transition in the language, culture, and lifestyle of England and results in what we can recognize today as a form of “modern” (recognizable) English.
  • 1340

    Ockham's Razo

    William of Ockham advocates paring down arguments to their essentials, an approach later known as Ockham's Razor
  • 1387

    100 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

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

    The Renaissance

    Also known as the "“Early Modern”. This period is often subdivided into four parts, including the Elizabethan Age (1558–1603), the Jacobean Age (1603–1625), the Caroline Age (1625–1649), and the Commonwealth Period (1649–1660).
  • 1524

    Translation of the Bible

    William Tyndale studies in the university at Wittenberg and plans to translate the Bible into English
  • 1549

    English prayer book

    The first version of the English prayer book, or Book of Common Prayer, is published with text by Thomas Cranmer
  • 1567

    Common Prayer Book and the New Testament

    The Book of Common Prayer and the New Testament are published in Welsh, to be followed by the complete Bible in 1588
  • The Faerie Queene

    English poet Edmund Spenser celebrates the Protestant Elizabeth I as The Faerie Queene
  • Period: to

    The Neoclassical Period

    It is subdivided into ages, including The Restoration (1660–1700), The Augustan Age (1700–1745), and The Age of Sensibility (1745–1785).
  • Hamlet

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

    The satirical voice of the English playwright Ben Jonson is heard to powerful effect in Volpone
  • William Shakespeare dies

    William Shakespeare dies at New Place, his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and is buried in Holy Trinity Church
  • Thirty-six Shakespeare plays

    John Heminge and Henry Condell publish thirty-six Shakespeare plays in the First Folio
  • Samuel Pepy

    On the first day of the new year Samuel Pepys gets up late, eats the remains of the turkey and begins his diary
  • Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost is published, earning its author John Milton just £10
  • The Pilgrim's Progress

    Part I of The Pilgrim's Progress, written during John Bunyan's two spells in Bedford Gaol, is published and is immediately popular
  • Oroonoko

    Aphra Behn's novel Oroonoko makes an early protest against the inhumanity of the African slave trade
  • The Augustan Age

    The Augustan Age begins in English literature, claiming comparison with the equivalent flowering under Augustus Caesar
  • Robinson Crusoe

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

    Jonathan Swift sends his hero on a series of bitterly satirical travels in Gulliver's Travels.
  • Dictionary of the English Language

    Samuel Johnson publishes his magisterial Dictionary of the English Language
  • Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    English historian Edward Gibbon, sitting among ruins in Rome, conceives the idea of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica

    A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland begins publication of the immensely successful Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire publishing

    English historian Edward Gibbon publishes the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Period: to

    The Romantic Period

    American literature has its own Romantic period, but typically when one speaks of Romanticism, one is referring to this great and diverse age of British literature, perhaps the most popular and well-known of all literary ages.
  • Songs of Innocence

    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

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

    Thomas Paine publishes his completed Age of Reason, an attack on conventional Christianity
  • Lyrical Ballads

    English poets Wordsworth and Coleridge jointly publish Lyrical Ballads, a milestone in the Romantic movement
  • The Lay of the Last Minstrel

    Walter Scott publishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel, the long romantic poem that first brings him fame
  • The Necessity of Atheism

    Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from Oxford University for circulating a pamphlet with the title The Necessity of Atheism
  • 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

    Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about giving life to an artificial man
  • Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

    English author Thomas De Quincey publishes his autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • Domestic Manners of the Americans

    English author Frances Trollope ruffles transatlantic feathers with her Domestic Manners of the Americans, based on a 3-year stay
  • Period: to

    The Victorian Period

    This period is named for the reign of Queen Victoria, who ascended to the throne in 1837, and it lasts until her death in 1901.
  • Oliver Twist

    Charles Dickens' first novel, Oliver Twist, begins monthly publication (in book form, 1838)
  • The Condition of the Working Class in England

    Friedrich Engels, after running a textile factory in Manchester, publishes The Condition of the Working Class in England
  • Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

    London physician Peter Mark Roget publishes his dictionary of synonyms, the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases
  • Origin of Species

    Charles Darwin puts forward the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, the result of 20 years' research
  • Self-Help, a manual for ambitious young men

    Samuel Smiles provides an inspiring ideal of Victorian enterprise in Self-Help, a manual for ambitious young men
  • Far from the Madding Crowd

    English author Thomas Hardy has his first success with his novel Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Treasure Island

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

    Oxford University Press publishes the A volume of its New English Dictionary, which will take 37 years to reach Z
  • Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet

    Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle's first novel, A Study in Scarlet
  • Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad publishes his novel Lord Jim about a life of failure and redemption in the far East
  • Period: to

    The Edwardian Period

    This period is named for King Edward VII and covers the period between Victoria’s death and the outbreak of World War I.
  • Just So Stories for Little Children

    Rudyard Kipling publishes his Just So Stories for Little Children
  • Nostromo

    Joseph Conrad publishes his novel Nostromo, about a revolution in South America and a fatal horde of silver
  • Major Barbara and Man and Superman

    Bernard Shaw has two new plays opening in London in the same year, Major Barbara and Man and Superman
  • The History of Mr Polly

    H.G. Wells publishes The History of Mr Polly, a novel about an escape from drab everyday existence
  • Howard's End

    E.M. Forster publishes Howard's End, his novel about the Schlegel sisters and the Wilcox family.
  • Period: to

    The Georgian Period

    The Georgian period usually refers to the reign of George V (1910–1936) but sometimes also includes the reigns of the four successive Georges from 1714–1830.
  • The Times Literary Supplement

    The Times Literary Supplement is published in London as an independent paper, separate from The Times
  • Period: to

    The Modern Period

    The modern period traditionally applies to works written after the start of World War I. It is difficult to say whether modernism has ended, though we know that postmodernism has developed after and from it; for now, the genre remains ongoing.
  • The Voyage Out

    The English writer Virginia Woolf publishes her first novel, The Voyage Out
  • The Return of the Soldier

    Rebecca West publishes her first novel, The Return of the Soldier
  • Rain

    Somerset Maugham's short story 'Rain' (in his collection The Trembling of a Leaf) introduces the lively American prostitute Sadie Thompson
  • A Passage to India

    E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India builds on cultural misconceptions between the British and Indian communities
  • Tarka the Otter

    Henry Williamson wins a wide readership with Tarka the Otter, a realistic story of the life and death of an otter in Devon
  • To The Lighthouse

    Virginia Woolf uses a Hebridean holiday as the setting for her narrative in To The Lighthouse
  • Poems - W.H. Auden

    English author W.H. Auden's first collection of poetry is published with the simple title Poems
  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

    John Maynard Keynes defines his economics in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
  • Scoop

    British author Evelyn Waugh publishes a classic Fleet Street novel, Scoop, introducing Lord Copper, proprietor of The Beast
  • The Third Policeman

    Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is rejected by numerous publishers before becoming, decades later, his best-known novel
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

    British author Rebecca West publishes an account of Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
  • Four Quartets

    The separate poems forming T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets are brought together for the first time as a single volume, published in New York
  • The Pursuit of Love

    English author Nancy Mitford has her first success with the novel The Pursuit of Love
  • Period: to

    The Postmodern Period

    The postmodern period begins about the time that World War II ended. Many believe it is a direct response to modernism
  • Titus Groan

    Titus Groan begins British author Mervyn Peake's trilogy of gothic novels
  • Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Casino Royale

    James Bond, agent 007, has a licence to kill in Ian Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale
  • Lord of the Flies

    William Golding gives a chilling account of schoolboy savagery in his first novel, Lord of the Flies
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Roald Dahl publishes a fantasy treat for a starving child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Amadeus

    Peter Shaffer's play about Mozart, Amadeus, has its premiere in London
  • War music

    War Music is the first instalment of Christopher Logue's version of the Iliad
  • His Dark Materials

    The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials