History of English


Roman Occupation

43 BC - 410 AD


410 - 1066

Norman Britain

1066 - 1155


1485 - 1603



43 AD - 600 AD

Old English

450 - 1150

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England


Middle English

1100 - 1470


First Christian Missionaries

596 - 700

Christianization of Britain

Viking Raids

750 - 1000

Battle of Edington


Arthur the Great of Wessex defeats Viking Invaders led by Guthrum the Old

Hundred Years' War

1337 - 1453

Kingdom of England vs Kingdom France

Black Death

1348 - 1349

Killed between 1/3 and 1/2 of the population of England. Many of the clergy who lived in communal areas were killed. The clergy spoke and wrote in Latin and French. This made room for peasants to climb the social chain by trading and charging higher prices for their services and goods. The peasants spoke only English, therefore wealthy people had to adopt the language in order to trade etc.

Black Death

1361 - 1362

Civil War and Revolution

1603 - 1714


Bible Vulgate Version


The Wanderer


Written in Anglo-Saxon in Exeter Book 960-990
Probably spoken beforehand as early as c.600 during Augustine's mission to England. Written in traditional OE poem format it recounts the thoughts of an old man at the end of his life. He recalls his glory days as a warrior but is reminded of the loss he feels. He is then comforted in his salvation through God. A possible allegory for the past pagan worries and the promise of salvation brought by Christianity.


657 - 680

Herdsman, lay-brother and contemporary of Bede at Whitby Abbey at the time of St Hilda. He was once ignorant of the art of song however after a visitation from an angel in a dream he became a zealous monk with a gift for song and poetry. He wrote his poems in OE. Caedmon's Hymn is one of the earliest examples of OE poetry alongside the dream of the Rood found on the Ruthwell Cross and the inscriptions on Frank's Casket.

Lindisfarne Gospels

698 - 721

Produced by a monk called Eadfrith, Bishop of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John written in Latin and ornately decorated with illustrations. In 970 an Anglo-Saxon translation was put in red in between the Latin written in black. This is the oldest surviving version of the gospels in any form of English

Frank's Casket

700 - 750

Anglo-Saxon, first half of the 8th century AD
Northumbria, England

Scenes from Roman, Jewish, Christian and Germanic tradition

When it came to light in the nineteenth century, this magnificent rectangular casket was being used as a family workbox at Auzon, France. Some time during its mysterious history it was dismantled and one end panel was separated from the rest of the box. This piece was bequeathed to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, and is represented here by a cast. The remaining panels were presented to the British Museum by one of its greatest benefactors, Sir Augustus Franks, after whom the casket is named. It is also known as the Auzon casket.

The box is made of whale's bone, richly carved on the sides and lid in high relief with a range of scenes with accompanying text in both the runic and Roman alphabets and in both Old English and Latin. Silver fittings attached to the casket, a handle, locks and hinges, were removed at some time in its history leaving scars which mark their original positions. The non-decorated part of the lid almost certainly replaces a carved piece, and part of the plain base is also missing.

The front is divided into two scenes: the left is derived from the Germanic legend of Weland the Smith, while the right depicts the Adoration of the Magi, when the three wise men visited the newborn Christ, labelled 'mægi' in runes.

The left-hand end shows the founders of Rome identified in the accompanying text as Romulus and Remus, from the legend of twin brothers brought up by a wolf. The back shows the capture of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman Emperor Titus. This scene has an inscription in mixed languages and scripts.

The right-hand end, here a cast, is difficult to interpret, but recalls a lost Germanic legend with a text partly in encoded runes. This appears to describe a person called Hos sitting upon the 'sorrow-mound'. The decorated panel in the lid shows another Germanic story about a hero named Ægili who is shown defending a fortification from armed raiders.

Surprisingly, the main runic inscription on the front does not refer to the scene it surrounds. It is a riddle in Old English relating to the origin of the casket. It can be translated as 'The fish beat up the seas on to the mountainous cliff; the King of terror became sad when he swam onto the shingle.' This is then answered with the solution 'Whale's bone.' It tells us that the casket was made from the bone of a beached whale.

The style of the carving, and dialect of the inscriptions, show that the casket was made in northern England, probably in a monastery, and possibly for a learned patron. Made at a time when Christianity had not long been established in England, it reflects a strong interest in how the pagan Germanic past might relate to Christ's message, and to the histories of Rome and Jerusalem. How and when the casket arrived in France is unknown, although by the thirteenth century it seems to have been at the important shrine of St Julian at Brioude in the Auvergne.

Bede: Translation of Gospel of John



750 - 1010

dates are circa.

Ruthwell Cross



The Ruthwell Cross is a symbol of the Angles' control of this area, but also of their Christian faith and cultural contacts. The cross stands 5.2 metres tall and is beautifully carved with sophisticated imagery. It was probably erected in the reigns of King Aldfrith or Osred around 700AD, and it would have originally stood outside an Anglian church on the site.

Latin inscriptions around the carvings tell the story of what is pictured on the cross, although this was probably for the use of monks - the only people who would have had a Latin education.

A second set of inscriptions are carved in runes, used by Germanic peoples like the Angles and Vikings. These are fragmentary quotations from one of oldest of Old English poems ever written: ‘The Dream of the Rood’ - where ‘rood’ means cross, as in Holyrood in Edinburgh.

The runes may have been for those with no knowledge of Latin, but who possibly knew the poem by heart. They tell the story of the Crucifixion from the perspective of the Cross. It mixes bloody warrior imagery, of a kind the Angles would have appreciated, with an understanding of Christ’s suffering.
‘Dream of the Rood’, c700 AD
‘God almighty stripped himself,
when he wished to climb the Cross
bold before all men.
to bow (I dare not,
but had to stand firm.)

I held high the great King,
heaven’s Lord. I dare not bend.
Men mocked us both together. I was slick with blood
sprung from the Man’s side…)

Christ was on the Cross.
But then quick ones came from afar,
nobles, all together. I beheld it all.
I bowed (to warrior hands.)

Wounded with spears,
they laid him, limb weary. At his body’s head they stood.
They that looked to (heaven’s Lord…)

It was designed as a preaching cross: using the carvings as a picture book for the ‘humble’. The on the broad faces of the cross are carved scenes that illustrate Christ’s divinity, the Holy Trinity and the four Evangelists who wrote the gospels - Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.

Vespasian Psalter


Mercian dialect

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

892 - 1154

Begin date is circa.
Commissioned by King Alfred the Great of Wessex

Cuckoo Song


Song that came from the peasants of the land. One of the earliest pieces of English that is still recognisable today. No French words. 'Summer', 'Come', 'Sow', 'Seed' (Frisian) 'Spring' (Anglo-Saxon: Beowulf). Showed that French had not filtered down to the peasants of the land, compare to the Troubadour songs

Geoffrey Chaucer

1343 - 1400

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

1350 - 1400

Period thought to be when poem was written

Wycliffe Version of Bible

1382 - 1395

Wanted all people to be able to read the scripture. The right of every-man, cleric or layman to examine the bible for themselves. Translate from Latin to English. Taken place in Oxford. Handwritten copies made by secret transcribers who would copy and pass on. Visually similar to the Lindisfarne Gospel

Caxton's Printing Press


First print in English (Canterbury Tales)

Bible Tyndale Version

1526 - 1536

William Shakespeare

1564 - 1616


Alfred the Great - King of Wessex

871 - 899

King of Wessex

Edward the Elder

899 - 924



AEthelstan - King of Wessex

924 - 927

AEthelstan - King of England

927 - 939

House of Wessex

Edmund I

939 - 946


946 - 955


955 - 959

Edgar the Peaceful

959 - 975

AEthelred the Unready

978 - 1013

Sweyn Forkbeard

1013 - 1014

House of Knytlinga (Denmark)

AEthelred the Unready

1014 - 1016

House of Wessex (restored)

Edmund Ironside



1016 - 1035

House of Knytlinga (restored)

Harold Harefoot

1035 - 1040


1040 - 1042

Edward the Confessor

1042 - 1066

House of Wessex (restored... again) Saxon Restoration

William the Conqueror

1066 - 1087

House of Normandy

William II

1087 - 1100

Henry I

1100 - 1135

Stephen of Blois

1135 - 1154

House of Blois (Normandy)



Daughter of Henry I
Title disputed

Henry II

1154 - 1189

House of Plantagenet: spoke fluent Latin and French but no English. French and Latin even further entrenched as language of the court, however the language of the streets was still English. As they proceeded through the Strand "Long live the King and Queen" were chanted in both English and Latin.

Henry the Young King

1170 - 1183

Richard the Lionheart

1189 - 1199


1199 - 1216

Henry III

1216 - 1272

Edward I

1272 - 1307

Edward II

1307 - 1327

Edward III

1327 - 1377

Richard II

1377 - 1399

Henry IV

1399 - 1413

House of Lancaster
First King since Harold in 1066 to speak English

Henry V

1413 - 1422

Decreed that the Signet office should write in English. The signet office wrote personal letters on behalf of the Monarch.

Henry VI

1422 - 1461

Edward IV

1461 - 1470

House of York (first reign)

Henry VI

1470 - 1471

House of Lancaster (restored)

Edward IV

1471 - 1483

House of York (restored)

Edward V


Richard III

1483 - 1485

Henry VII

1485 - 1509

House of Tudor

Henry VIII

1509 - 1547