History of English Literature

By Molisa
  • Period: 500 to 1500

    Premodern or medieval period

    This period includes all the works that were available in Europe during the Middle Ages (from the fall of the Western Roman Empire, 500 AD to the Renaissance of the 15th century). The literature of this era was dominated by religious writings, which included poetry, theology and the lives of the saints, but secular works and scientific works were also produced.
  • 731

    Venerable Bede

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


    Beowulf, the first great work of Germanic literature, mixes the legends of Scandinavia with the English experience of the Angles and Saxons.
  • 1078

    Ontological argument

    Ontological argument
    Anselmo includes in his Proslogion his famous "ontological proof" of the existence of God
  • 1367

    Piers Plowman

     Piers Plowman
    A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem by Piers Plowman.
  • 1385

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    Geoffrey Chaucer
    Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about a legendary romance in ancient Troy.
  • 1469

    Thomas Malory

    Thomas Malory
    Thomas Malory, en la cárcel en algún lugar de Inglaterra, compila Morte d'Arthur , un relato en inglés de los cuentos franceses del rey Arturo
  • Period: 1501 to

    Early modern period or Renaissance

    "The English Renaissance" is the term used to describe the artistic and cultural movement that existed in England from the sixteenth century to the mid-seventeenth.
  • 1510

    Erasmus and Thomas

    Erasmus and Thomas
    Erasmus and Thomas More take the Northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism
  • 1549

    Thomas Cranmer

    Thomas Cranmer
    The first version of the English prayer book, or Common Prayer Book, is published with text by Thomas Cranmer.
  • 1574

    Samuel Sewall

    Samuel Sewall
    Samuel Sewall begins a diary of daily life in Boston, Massachusetts, which will span a period of more than fifty years..
  • Marlowe, Christopher

    Marlowe, Christopher
    Marlowe's first work, Tamburlaine the Great, presents the shocking blank verse of the Elizabethan and Jacobean drama.
  • Shakespeare

    The central character of Shakespeare in Hamlet expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disappointment of a less confident era
  • William Bradford

    William Bradford
    William Bradford begins a journal of the experience of the pilgrims in New England, published later (in 1856) as History of Plymouth Plantation.
  • John Locke

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

    Neoclassical literature

    The epoch of the early eighteenth century is known as the Augustan era or neoclassical literature. The works of Alexander Pope demonstrate that the poetry of these years was very formal. In the middle of the XVIII the novel was based on the hand of authors like Henry Fielding, Laurence Stern and Samuel Richardson, who perfected the epistolary novel; Richardson was a moralist while Fielding and Stern came closer to the comic genre.
  • The Age of Augustus

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

    Robinson Crusoe
    Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, with his detailed realism, can be considered as the first English novel
  • To Clarissa: o The story of a young lady

    To Clarissa: o The story of a young lady
    Clarissa by Samuel Richardson begins the correspondence that becomes the longest novel in the English language
  • Gibbon, Edward

    Gibbon, Edward
    The English historian Edward Gibbon, sitting among the ruins of Rome, conceives the idea of Decay and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica

    Encyclopedia Britannica
    A Society of Knights in Scotland begins the publication of the immensely successful Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Period: to


    The reaction towards industrialization and urbanism pushed the poets to explore nature, as the group of "The poets of the lake". These romantic poets brought to English literature a new degree of sentimentality and introspection.
  • Freneau, Philip Morin

     Freneau, Philip Morin
    The American poet Philip Freneau describes in The British Prison Ship the horrors of his experiences as a prisoner
  • Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

    Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
    Thomas Paine publishes the first part of The Rights of Man, his response to Burke's reflections on the revolution in France.
  • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel

    Walter Scott publishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel, the long romantic poem that first gives him fame
  • Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice

    Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
    Pride and Prejudice, based on a 1797 youth work called First Impressions, is the second Jane Austen novel to be published
  • Frankenstein

    Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about how to give life to an artificial man.
  • Walter Scott, Ivanhoe

    Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
    Walter Scott publishes Ivanhoe, a love story, tournaments and sieges at the time of the Crusades.
  • Moore, Clement Clarke

     Moore, Clement Clarke
    An American poem, A Visit of Saint Nicholas, describes modern Santa Claus in every detail.
  • América

    The patriotic anthem of Samuel Francis Smith, United States, is sung for the first time on July 4 in Boston
  • Simms, William Gilmore

    Simms, William Gilmore
    The American novelist William Gilmore Simms publishes Guy Rivers, the first of his series known as Border Romances.
  • Democracy in America

     Democracy in America
    Alexis de Tocqueville publishes in French the first two volumes of his extremely influential study Democracy in America.
  • Divinity School

     Divinity School
    In his Discourse on the School of Divinity, delivered at Harvard, Ralph Waldo Emerson criticizes formal religion and gives priority to personal spiritual experience.
  • Browning, Robert

    Browning, Robert
    The English poet Robert Browning publishes a vivid narrative poem about the terrible revenge of The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Period: to

    Modern literature

    The most outstanding novelists of the period between wars were D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, this last member of the Bloomsbury group. The Sitwells also gained strength among literary and artistic movements, but with less influence.
  • Engels, Friedrich

    Engels, Friedrich
    Friedrich Engels, after directing a textile factory in Manchester, publishes The condition of the working class in England.
  • The theory of evolution

    The theory of evolution
    Charles Darwin presents the theory of evolution in On the origin of species, the result of a 20-year investigation.
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham

    The Rise of Silas Lapham
    In his novel The Rise of Silas Lapham, the American author William Dean Howells follows the fate of a man made in Boston
  • Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

    Gilman, Charlotte Perkins
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman publishes Women and Economics, developing the feminist theme in the political and cultural life of the United States.
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie

    Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
    The first novel of Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, does not receive publicity because its editor, Frank Doubleday, considers it immoral
  • Period: to

    Postmodern literature

    Two examples of English postmodern literature are: John Fowles and Julian Barnes. Some important writers of the beginning of the 21st century are: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Will Self, Andrew Motion and Salman Rushdie.
  • Tarzan

    Tarzan makes his first appearance in the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the monkeys
  • The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby
    Scott FitzGerald publishes his novel The Great Gatsby, set in a contemporary world of generous indulgence sustained by crime.
  • Life of Galileo

     Life of Galileo
    The work of Bertolt Brecht The Life of Galileo opens in Los Angeles with Charles Laughton at the head
  • Under Milk Wood

     Under Milk Wood
    Dylan Thomas' 'voice game', Under Milk Wood, is broadcast on the BBC radio, with Richard Burton as the narrator
  • Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich

     Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich
    The British economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher publishes an influential economic tract, Small is Beautiful
  • Faulks, Sebastian

     Faulks, Sebastian
    The English novelist Sebastian Faulks publishes Birdsong, set in part in the trenches of the First World War.
  • Harry Potter

    Harry Potter
    A school magician performs his first tricks on Harry Potter and JK Rowling's Philosopher's Stone
  • Philip Pullman

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