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Date Event Period
6000 BC Britain cut off from continental Europe by English Channel  


Before English

5000 BC Proto-Indo-Europeans living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
1000 BC Germanic Indo-European tribes living in parts of modern-day Germany
500 BC Celts inhabit much of Europe, and beginning to colonize the British Isles
55 BC First Roman raids on Britain under Julius Caesar
43 AD Roman occupation of Britain under Emperor Claudius (beginning of Roman rule of Britain)
410-436 Roman withdrawal from Britain
450 Anglo-Saxon settlement (Angles, Frisians, Saxons, Jutes) of Britain begins  




Old English

450-480 Earliest Old English inscriptions
597 St. Augustine arrives in Britain (beginning of Christian conversion of the Anglo-Saxons)
600 Anglo-Saxon language covers most of modern-day England
660 “Cædmon’s Hymn” composed in Old English
731 The Venerable Bede writes “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People” (in Latin)
792 Viking raids of Britain begin
800 Old English epic poem “Beowulf” composed
865 The Danes launch a full-scale invasion and occupy Northumbria
871 Alfred the Great becomes king of Wessex, encourages English prose and translation of Latin works
871 “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” is begun
878 Danelaw established, dividing Britain into Anglo-Saxon south and Danish north
911 Charles II of France grants Normandy to the Viking chief Hrolf the Ganger (the beginning of Norman French)
1000 The oldest surviving manuscript of “Beowulf” dates from this period
1066 The Norman conquest under William the Conqueror  



Middle English

1086 “Domesday Book” compiled
c.1100 London becomes de facto capital of England
c.1150 The oldest surviving manuscripts in Middle English date from this period
1154 Eleanor of Aquitaine, French wife of Henry II, becomes Queen Consort of England
1154 “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” discontinued
1167 Oxford University established
c.1180 The “Ormulum” text of the monk Orm completed
1204 King John loses the province of Normandy to France
1209 Cambridge University established
1215 Magna Carta
1250 French begins to lose its prominence
1337-1453 Hundred Years War
1348-50 The Black Death kills one-third of the British population
1362 The Statute of Pleading replaces French with English as the language of law (although records continue to be kept in Latin)
1362 English is used in the English Parliament for the first time
c.1370 William Langland writes “Piers Plowman”
1384 John Wycliffe publishes his English translation of “The Bible”
1385 English replaces Latin as the main language in schools (except Universities of Oxford and Cambridge)
c.1388 Chaucer begins “The Canterbury Tales”
1399 Henry IV becomes first English-speaking monarch since before the Conquest
c.1450 The Great Vowel Shift begins  




Early Modern   English

1476 William Caxton establishes the first English printing press
c.1500 Start of English Renaissance
1526 William Tyndale prints his English translation of the New Testament of “The Bible”
1539 “The Great Bible” published
1549 The first version of “The Book of Common Prayer” published
c.1590 William Shakespeare writes his first plays
1604 Robert Cawdrey publishes the first English dictionary, “A Table Alphabetical”
1607 Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, established
1611 The Authorized, or King James Version, of “The Bible” is published
1616 Death of William Shakespeare
1622 Publication of the first English-language newspaper, the “Courante” or “Weekly News”
1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works is published
1702 Publication of the first daily English-language newspaper, “The Daily Courant”, in London
1755 Samuel Johnson publishes his “Dictionary of the English Language”
1763 Britain wrests control of Canada from the French  




Late Modern English

1777 Last native speaker of the Celtic Cornish language dies
1782 George Washington defeats Cornwallis at Yorktown and Britain abandons its American colonies
1788 British penal colony established in Australia
1788 First publication of “The Times” newspaper in London
1788 Noah Webster publishes “The American Spelling Book”
1795 First English settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
1804 Lewis and Clark document exploration of routes to American West
1828 Noah Webster publishes his “The American Dictionary of the English Language”
1834 Abolition of slavery in the British Empire
1840 British colony established in New Zealand
1865 The United States ends slavery after the Civil War
1922 British Broadcasting Corporation
1928 First edition of the “Oxford English Dictionary” is published
1947 India and Pakistan gain independence from Britain
1954 Sir Ernest Gowers’ “The Complete Plain Words” published
1989 The second edition of the “Oxford English Dictionary” is published


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