the history of English literature

  • Period: 439 to 1066

    THE OLD ENGLISH PERIOD (439 -1066)

    The term Anglo-Saxon comes from two Germanic tribes, the Angles and the Saxons. This period of literature dates back to their invasion (along with the Jutes) of Celtic England circa 450. The period ends in 1066, when Norman France, under William, conquered England.
  • 731


    This period of literature dates back to their invasion (along with the Jutes) of Celtic England circa 450
  • 959


    Much of the first half of this period, prior to the seventh century, at least, was oral literature; however, some works, such as and the works of Caedmon and Cynewulf, period poets, are also important.
  • 975


    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 Period

    This period sees a 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
  • 1350

    Gawain and the Green Knight.

    Gawain and the Green Knight.
    This period is home to the likes of Chaucer, Thomas Malory, and Robert Henryson. Notable works include Piers Plowman and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
  • 1367


    a narrator who call himself will, and whose names may be Langland begins the epic poem of piers plowman.
  • 1469


    Thomas malory in goal somewhere in england compiles morte d arthur,. As with the Old English Period, much of the Middle English writings were religious in nature.
  • Period: 1500 to

    The Renaissance (1500 – 1660)

    Recently, critics and literary historians have begun to call this the “Early Modern” period, The King James translation of the Bible also appeared during the Jacobean Age. The Caroline Age covers the reign of Charles I (“Carolus”). John Milton, Robert Burton, and George Herbert are some of the notable figures.
  • 1590

    English poet Edmund spencer celebrates the protestant Elizabeth I as the faeire queene.
  • 1601

    Shakespeare's central character in hamlet expresses both the ideals of the renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age. John Milton and Thomas Hobbes’ political writings appeared and, while drama suffered, prose writers such as Thomas Fuller, Abraham Cowley, and Andrew Marvell published prolifically.
  • Period: to

    The Neoclassical Period 1660 - 1785

    The Neoclassical Period: This period is also subdivided into ages, including The Restoration (1660-1700), The Augustan Age (1700-1745), and The Age of Sensibility (1745-1785). The Restoration period sees some response to the puritanical age, especially in the theater. Restoration Comedies (comedies of manner) developed during this time under the talent of playwrights such as William Congreve and John Dryden.
  • 1667

    Paradise lost is published, earning its author Jhon Milton.
  • 1755

    Samuel johnson publishes his magisterial dictionary of English
  • Period: to

    The Romantic Period (1785 – 1832)

    The beginning date for this period is often debated. Some claim it is 1785, immediately following the Age of Sensibility. Others say it began in 1789 with the start of the French Revolution, and still, others believe 1798, the publication year for Wordsworth & Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, is its true beginning
  • between 1786-1800

    between 1786-1800
    called the Gothic era. Writers of note for this period include Matthew Lewis, Anne Radcliffe, and William Beckford.
  • 1792

    English author Mary Wollstonecraft publishes a passionately feminist work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • 1831

    Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem The Last Leaf is inspired by an aged survivor of the Boston Tea Party.
  • Period: to

    THE VICTORIAN PERIOD (1832 -1901)

    This period is named for the reign of Queen Victoria, who ascended to the throne in 1837 and lasts until her death in 1901. It was a time of great social, religious, intellectual, and economic issues, heralded by the passage of the Reform Bill.
  • 1843

    Ebenezer Scrooge mends his ways just in time in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
  • 1895

    H.G. Wells publishes The Time Machine, a story about a Time Traveller whose first stop on his journey is the year 802701.
  • 1900

    Frank Baum introduces children to Oz, in his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
  • 1901

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

    THE EDWARDIAN PERIOD (1901 -1914

    THE EDWARDIAN PERIOD (1901 -1914):
    This period is named for King Edward VII and covers the period between Victoria’s death and the outbreak of World War I. Although a short period (and a short reign of Edward VII), the era includes incredible classic novelists such as Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and Henry James
  • 1910

    H.G. Wells publishes The History of Mr. Polly, a novel about an escape from drab everyday existence
  • Period: to

    THE GEORGIAN PERIOD (1914 -1936)

    THE GEORGIAN PERIOD (1914 -1936):
    This term usually refers to the reign of George V (1910-1936) but sometimes also includes the reigns of the four successive Georges from 1714-1830.
  • 1915

    Rupert Brooke's 1914 and Other Poems is published a few months after his death in Greece
  • 1925)

    Virginia Woolf publishes her novel Mrs. Dalloway, in which the action is limited to a single day.
  • 1928

    Irish author Frank Harris publishes the fourth and final volume of My Life and Loves
  • 1936

    US author Margaret Mitchell publishes her one book, which becomes probably the best-selling novel of all time - Gone with the Wind.
  • Period: to

    THE MODERN PERIOD (1936 -1950)

    THE MODERN PERIOD (1936 -1950):
    The Modern Period traditionally applies to works written after the start of World War I. Common features include bold experimentation with the subject matter, style, and form, along with encompasses narrative, verse, and drama. W.B. Yeats’ words, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold” are often referred to when describing the core tenant or “feeling” of modernist concerns.
  • 1940

    Ernest Hemingway publishes the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, set in the Spanish Civil War.
  • 1945

    In George Orwell's fable Animal Farm a ruthless pig, Napoleon, controls the farmyard using the techniques of Stalin.
  • 1950

    C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
  • Period: to

    THE POSTMODERN PERIOD (1950 - 2000)

    THE POSTMODERN PERIOD (1950 - 2000):
    This period begins about the time that World War II ended. Many believe it is a direct response to Modernism. Some say the period ended about 1990, but it is likely too soon to declare this period closed. Poststructuralist literary theory and criticism developed during this time. Some notable writers of the period include Samuel Beckett, Joseph Heller, Anthony Burgess, John Fowles, Penelope M. Lively, and Iain Banks.
  • 1979

    US author Maya Angelou publishes her autobiographical first novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • 1997

    A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  • 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. So when we think of contemporary literature, we cannot simply look at a few themes or settings.
  • 2010

    Mockingjay completes Suzanne Collins' trilogy, The Hunger Games.
  • 2013

    J. K. Rowling (under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) starts
    Cormoran Strike, a series of crime fiction novels.