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History of English Literature

  • Period: 450 to 1080


    It is characterized by an oral tradition of epic poems, songs, and poetry. Ancient English or Anglo-Saxon literature was well established by pre-Christian Germanic settlers. One of the best-known works of this time period is Beowulf, an epic poem about the Geatish warrior of the same name.
  • 731

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

    The Venerable Bede, in his monastery at Jarrow, completes his history of the English church and people
    Bede (673–735) in The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature (3 ed.)
  • 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.

    The material of the Eddas.
    The material of the Eddas, taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain, and Burgundy
  • 1078

    Ontological proof' of the existence of God

    Anselm includes in his Proslogion his famous 'ontological proof' of the existence of God
  • Period: 1080 to 1500


    Medieval or Middle English was sparked by the Normans' invasion of Britain when the Duke of Normandy defeated King Harold of Britain in the Battle of Hastings. The language was a dialect of French descent with Germanic influences, generally called Anglo-Norman. This fun brought English closer to what we know and use today. Famous works during this period include the History of the Kings of Great Britain (containing the legend of King Arthur) and the Canterbury Tales.
  • 1300

    The Subtle Doctor in medieval times

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

    William of Ockham

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

    The Epic Poem of Piers Plowman.

     The Epic Poem of Piers Plowman.
    A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem of Piers Plowman
  • 1375

    The courtly poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

    The courtly poem 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
  • 1467

    Thomas Malory

    Thomas Malory
    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 English Renaissance saw the rise of the merchant class in Britain. Mathematics, science, technology, education, and exploration became more accessible to the masses. The feudal system was slowly dissolving as middle-class merchants increased their wealth. The works became popular as they appealed to all classes. Notable playwrights include Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest playwright of all time.
  • 1510


    Erasmus and Thomas More take the northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism
  • Period: 1558 to

    Elizabethan Era

    The Elizabethan Era took place from 1558 to 1603 and is considered by many historians to be the golden age in English History. During this era, England experienced peace and prosperity while the arts flourished. The time period is named after Queen Elizabeth I who ruled England during this time.
  • 1564

    Marlowe and Shakespeare

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

    Marlowe's first play, Tamburlaine the Great, introduces the swaggering blank verse of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama
  • The Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece. Henry VI.

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

    Hamlet by Shakespeare´s
    Shakespeare's central character in Hamlet expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age
  • Period: to

    The Jacobean era

    The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of James VI of Scotland who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I. The Jacobean era succeeds the Elizabethan era and precedes the Caroline era.
  • John Smith

    John Smith publishes A Description of New England, an account of his exploration of the region in 1614
  • Period: to

    The Carolia Era

    The Caroline era refers to the period in English and Scottish history named for the 24-year reign of Charles I (1625–1649). The term is derived from Carolus, the Latin for Charles. ... Despite the friction between King and Parliament dominating society, there were developments in the arts and sciences.
  • Period: to


  • Period: to

    Restauretion Age

  • Samuel Sewall

    Samuel Sewall
    Samuel Sewall begins a diary of daily life in Boston, Massachusetts, that will span a period of more than fifty years
  • John Locke

    John Locke
    John Locke publishes his Essay concerning Human Understanding, arguing that all knowledge is based on experience
  • Period: to 798

    Neaoclassical era. Restoration, Augustan, and Age of Johnson The Enlightenment - Era of logic and reason

    Neoclassical writers tried to imitate the style of the Romans and Greeks, "Neo," which means "new" and "classical," which refers to classical works. This era was the starting point of the new middle class and the tradition of afternoon tea.The characteristics of the writing-focused mainly on people's appearances rather than their true feelings or intentions. In contrast to the Renaissance, which viewed people as intrinsically good, neoclassical literature seen man as "defective."
  • The Selling of Joseph

    The Selling of Joseph
    Boston merchant Samuel Sewall publishes The Selling of Joseph, a very early anti-slavery tract
  • Period: to

    18th Century

  • Period: to

    Augustan literature

    La Literatura augusta (en inglés: Augustan Literature)​ es un estilo de literatura inglesa que se corresponde aproximadamente con los reinados de la reina Ana, el rey Jorge I, y Jorge II. Los críticos se refieren con este nombre a la literatura desarrollada entre 1700 y 1760 (o, para algunos, hasta 1789).
  • The Augustan era

    The Augustan era
    The Augustan Age begins in English literature, claiming comparison with the equivalent flowering under Augustus Caesar
  • George Berkeley

    George Berkeley
    25-year-old George Berkeley attacks Locke in his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  • David Hume

    David Hume
    David Hume publishes his Treatise of Human Nature, in which he applies to the human mind the principles of experimental science
  • Period: to

    Age of Sencibility

    This period is also sometimes described as the "Age of Johnson".[94] Samuel Johnson(1709–1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English author who made lasting 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
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan

    Richard Brinsley Sheridan's second play, The School for Scandal, is an immediate success in London's Drury Lane theatre
  • William Blake

    William Blake
    William Blake publishes Songs of Innocence, a volume of his poems with every page etched and illustrated by himself
  • Period: to


    Romanticism went from reason, logic, and science to a belief in the senses. Feelings, imagination, and experiences were valued above all else. Previously the interest in urban society was emphasized; during this movement, people focused on rural and natural life. The works consisted of extremely personal works that touched the mysterious and infinite world.
  • William Blake

    William Blake includes his poem 'Jerusalem' in the Preface to his book Milton
  • Walter Scott

    Walter Scott
    Walter Scott publishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel, the long romantic poem that first brings him fame
  • 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
  • Thomas De Quincey

    English author Thomas De Quincey publishes his autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • A Visit from St Nicholas

     A Visit from St Nicholas
    An American poem, A Visit from St Nicholas, describes in every detail the modern Santa Claus
  • Period: to

    Victorian Era

    Beginning with the coronation of Queen Victoria and culminating the year of her death, the Victorian era saw a battle between Romantic / Gothic and Neoclassical / Enlightenment ideas. Many members of the upper-middle class felt that they could join the ranks of their superiors and focused on acting as the dignitaries of the time. The characters and authors of this time period are often stereotyped for being stingy, hypocritical, and narrow-minded.
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens
    Charles Dickens' first novel, Oliver Twist, begins monthly publication (in book form, 1838)
  • the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species

     the theory of evolution in 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
  • Louisa May Alcott

    Louisa May Alcott
    US author Louisa May Alcott begins serial publication of her book for children, Little Women (in book form 1869)
  • Mark Twain

    Mark Twain
    Mark Twain publishes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in which Tom and his friends find excitement in a small town on the Mississippi
  • Sherlock Holmes

    Sherlock Holmes
    Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle's first novel, A Study in Scarlet
  • Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde's comedy Lady Windermere's Fan is a great success with audiences in London's St. James Theatre
  • Dracula

    English author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula, his gothic tale of vampirism in Transylvania
  • Period: to


    British modernist authors had a sense of betrayal after being devastated by two world wars in Europe. They lost faith in their institutions of government, in what they once believed in, and now saw lead to bloody conflict. They no longer saw their government or even their religions as a reliable means of giving answers in life, therefore they turned away and sought answers for themselves. Sometimes using allegory or even fantasy to do it.
  • Tarzan of the Apes

    Tarzan of the Apes
    Tarzan makes his first appearance in Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel Tarzan of the Apes
  • Rebecca West

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

    Agatha Christie
    Agatha Christie's Miss Marple makes her first appearance, in Murder at the Vicarage
  • Absalom

    William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom! chronicles the violently destructive rise and fall of a poor Southern white, Thomas Sutpen
  • Narnia C.S. Lewis gives

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

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

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge says that while writing Kubla Khan he is interrupted by 'a person on business from Porlock'
  • The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials

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