History of English Literature

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English Era (Anglo-Saxon era)

    In this era Britain suffered foreign invasions and internal struggles that resulted in the mixing of several races, tongues and cultures.
    In this period poetry played a primmary role including epic heroic poems and historic writings and chronicles.
  • 680

    Cædmon's Hymn

    Cædmon's Hymn
    Cædmon (657-684). The earliest English poet whose name is known. Released his Hymn, the oldest recorded English poem, composed between 658 and 680.
  • 731

    Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum

    Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum
    The venerable Bede complete his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written in Latin, it is one of the most important references on Anglo-Saxon history.
  • 800


    The first great work of Germanic literature, written in old English, it tells the stories of the hero Beowulf.
  • 1066

    Norman Conquest of England

    Norman Conquest of England
    The Anglos and Saxons that had migrated to the island, suffered The Norman Conquest of England, it was the 11th-century invasion and occupation of England by an army of Norman, Breton, Flemish, and French soldiers led by the Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror. It resulted in the birth of the English Language that we know.
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    Middle English era

    Here occurred the transition between Anglo-Saxon and the English language, known as Middle English, spoken after the Norman conquest in 1066, it had influences of Old Norse, Old French, Old English and Norman French.
  • 1362

    English, the predominant language

    English, the predominant language
    The English language regained prestige after a series of struggles, and it replaced French and Latin in Parliament and courts of law.
  • 1385

    Troilus and Criseyde

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

    The Canterbury Tales

    The Canterbury Tales
    Geoffrey Chaucer, the greatest English poet of the middle ages, styled "The father of English literature" began his most famous text, The Canterbury Tales. This is a collection of 24 stories. The tales (mostly in verse and some in prose) are a story-telling by a group of pilgrims as they travel together from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.
  • 1469

    Le Morte d'Arthur

    Le Morte d'Arthur
    Thomas Malory, compiles Morte d'Arthur – an English account of the French tales of King Arthur. Remaining unknown the original author.
  • Period: 1500 to

    English Renaissance era

    It begins with the pan-European Renaissance that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century.
    Renaissance style and ideas, however, were slow to penetrate England, and the Elizabethan era in the second half of the 16th century is usually regarded as the height of the English Renaissance.
    The dominant arts of the English Renaissance were literature and music.
  • 1549

    Book of common prayer

    Book of common prayer
    This book was a product of the English Reformation following the break with Rome. It was the first prayer book to include the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship in English. Based on the Anglicanism
  • The Faerie Queene

    The Faerie Queene
    By Edmund Spenser
    It is an epic poem to celebrate queen Elizabeth I. Books I,II, III were first published in 1590, and then republished in 1596 together with books IV, V, VI.
    It is one of the longest poems in the English language as well as the work in which Spenser invented the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza.
    It is an allegorical text that follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues.
    Elizabeth I granted Spenser a pension for life amounting to £50 a year.
  • Richard III

    Richard III
    It is a historical play by William Shakespeare believed.
    It describes rise to power and reign of King Richard III of England. This masterpiece concludes Shakespeare's first tetralogy, also containing Henry VI parts I, II and III.
  • The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

    The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
    The famous tragedy written by William Shakespeare, it depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother. This is Shakespeare's longest play and is considered among the most powerful and influential works of world literature.
  • Shakespeare's sonnets

    Shakespeare's sonnets
    These poems, written ten years ago are finally published.
    They treat a variety of themes. They are 154 sonnets that were first published all together; however there are six additional sonnets that Shakespeare wrote and included in the plays Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Love's Labour's Lost.
  • The Compleat Angler

    The Compleat Angler
    Written by Izaak Walton, a devoted fisherman.
    It was first published in 1653 by Richard Marriot in London.
    It is a celebration of the art and spirit of fishing in prose and verse.
  • Period: to

    Puritan Era

    The puritans, a group that aimed to purify the religious practice.
    Their lives where moved to glorify God.
    An important event was their migration from Europe to North America.
    The literature was mainly about chronicles of their travels, biographys, sermons or letters. The poetry was relegated during this period in the British and American lands where they settled.
  • Period: to

    Restoration Age

    Also known as age of Dryden, the most representative writer of this period.
    During this period the monarchy in England was restored.
    poetry was the most popular form of this period.
  • Paradise Lost

    Paradise Lost
    The famous epic poem in blank verse by John Milton (1608–1674).
    It consisted of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse.
    The poem concerns the biblical story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
  • Samuel Pepys' Diary

    Samuel Pepys' Diary
    Samuel Pepys(1633-1703) ends his diary after nine years writing it, but it would be published about 100 years after his death.
    It is considered as one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period.
    It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress

    The Pilgrim's Progress
    Full Name: The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come.
    It is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature.
    It has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print. It has also been cited as the first novel written in English.
  • Oroonoko

    It is a short work of prose fiction by Aphra Behn (1640–1689), one of the most important female writers.
    It makes an early protest against the inhumanity of the African slave trade.
  • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
    It is the most famous work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding.
    He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience.
    The essay was one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern philosophy.
  • Period: to

    18th Century

    The 18th century saw the development of the modern novel as literary genre, in fact many candidates for the first novel in English date from this period. This era is divided into two parts: the Augustan and the Age of Sensibility.
  • Period: to

    Augustan Era

    Literature reflected the worldview of the Age of Enlightenment (or Age of Reason)
    This literary epoch that featured the rapid development of the novel, an explosion in satire, the mutation of drama from political satire into melodrama and an evolution toward poetry of personal exploration.
    In philosophy, it was an age increasingly dominated by empiricism.
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

    A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
    by Irish Empiricist philosopher George Berkeley.
    This book seeks to refute the claims made by Berkeley's contemporary John Locke about the nature of human perception.
  • Robinson Crusoe

    Robinson Crusoe
    By Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
    It is considered the first English novel.
    It is a fictional autobiography of the protagonist, an English castaway who spends 28 years on a remote desert island.
  • Gulliver's Travels

    Gulliver's Travels
    It is a prose satire by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift.
    It is a satire on human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre.
    It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature.
    The book was an immediate success.
  • Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady

    Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
    It is an epistolary novel by English writer Samuel Richardson, published in 1748.
    It tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family and is regarded as one of the longest novels in the English language.
  • Period: to

    Age of Sensibility

    Sentimentalism, which is to be distinguished from sensibility, was a fashion in both poetry and prose fiction beginning in the eighteenth century in reaction to the rationalism of the Augustan Age.
  • Dictionary of the English Language

    Dictionary of the English Language
    Samuel Johnson, one of the most important English literary figures, publishes his magisterial 9-year work.
    He was also referred to as Dr Johnson, he made great contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
    Johnson has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history"
    The age of sensibility is also called Age of Johnson.
  • Castle of Otranto

     Castle of Otranto
    Horace Walpole published his Castle of Otranto, the earliest text of Gothic genre
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica

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

    Decline and fall of the Roman Empire
    In this year, It was released the first volume of Decline and fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.
  • Rime od the Ancient Mariner

    Rime od the Ancient Mariner
    It is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads.
    It is considered a signal shift to modern poetry and the beginning of British Romantic literature. The story relates the experiences of a sailor who has returned from a long sea voyage.
  • Period: to

    Romanticism Era

    It found recurrent themes in the evocation or criticism of the past, the cult of "sensibility" with its emphasis on women and children, the isolation of the artist or narrator, and respect for nature.
    Romantic authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, based their writings on the supernatural/occult and human psychology.
    It was one of major social change in England and Wales, because of the depopulation of the countryside and the rapid development of overcrowded industrial cities.
  • 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.
    It is a romantic novel that charts the emotional development of the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet, who learns the error of making hasty judgments and comes to appreciate the difference between the superficial and the essential.
  • Ozymandias / Frankenstein

    Ozymandias / Frankenstein
    Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes probably his best-known poem, the sonnet Ozymandias. Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about giving life to an artificial man.
  • Oliver Twist

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

    Victorian Era

    In this period the novel became the leading literary genre in English. Women played an important part in this rising popularity both as authors and as readers.
  • The Condition of the Working Class in England

    The Condition of the Working Class in England
    Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), after running a textile factory in Manchester, publishes The Condition of the Working Class in England
    It is a study of the industrial working class in Victorian England.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Oscar Wilde publishes this novel in which the ever-youthful hero's portrait grows old and ugly
  • Period: to

    Modernism Era

    English literary modernism is developed in the early twentieth-century out of a general sense of disillusionment with Victorian era attitudes of certainty, conservatism, and belief in the idea of objective truth.
    The movement was influenced by the ideas of Charles Darwin (1809–1882), Ernst Mach, Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, James G. Frazer, Karl Marx (Das Kapital, 1867), and the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud.
  • If-

    It is a poem written as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson.
    It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.
    The poem is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John.
  • Mrs. Dalloway

    Mrs. Dalloway
    Virginia Woolf publishes her novel Mrs Dalloway, in which the action is limited to a single day.
    It details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England.
  • Brighton Rock

    Brighton Rock
    The novel by Graham Greene is a murder thriller set in 1930s Brighton following 17-year-old Pinkie in the criminal underworld of the seaside town.
  • Finnegans Wake

    Finnegans Wake
    It is a work of fiction by Irish writer James Joyce.
    It is significant for its experimental style and reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language.
  • Period: to

    Post Modernism

    Postmodern literature is both a continuation of the experimentation championed by writers of the modernist period (relying heavily, for example, on fragmentation, paradox, questionable narrators, etc.) and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature. Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is difficult to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature.
  • Pursuit of Love

    Pursuit of Love
    English author Nancy Mitford has her first success with the novel The Pursuit of Love.
    It is the first in a trilogy about an upper-class English family in the interwar period. Although a comedy, the story has tragic overtones.
  • Casino Royale

    Casino Royale
    It is the first novel by the British author Ian Fleming.
    Published in 1953, it is the first James Bond book, and it paved the way for a further eleven novels and two short story collections by Fleming, followed by numerous continuation Bond novels by other authors.
  • The Second World War

    The Second World War
    It is a history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945, written by Winston Churchill.
  • The Lord of the Rings

    The Lord of the Rings
    British philologist J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the third and final volume of this epic fantasy.
  • Clockwork Orange

    Clockwork Orange
    Anthony Burgess publishes A Clockwork Orange, a novel depicting a disturbing and violent near-future
  • 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.
  • Trainspotting

    It takes the form of a collection of short stories, written in either Scots, Scottish English or British English, revolving around various residents of Leith, Edinburgh who either use heroin, are friends of the core group of heroin users
  • The Amber Spyglass

    The Amber Spyglass
    The Amber Spyglass is the third novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy, written by English author Philip Pullman.
  • Period: to

    Contemporary Era

    The current times are known as contemporary.
  • Oryx and Crake

    Oryx and Crake
    It is a novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She has described the novel as speculative fiction and adventure romance, rather than pure science fiction.
    It focuses on a lone character called Snowman, who finds himself in a bleak situation with only creatures called Crakers to keep him company. The reader learns of his past, as a boy called Jimmy, and of genetic experimentation and pharmaceutical engineering that occurred under the purview of Jimmy's peer, Glenn "Crake".