The History of English - How the English language went from an obscure Germanic dialect to a global language
INTRODUCTION
HISTORY
TIMELINE
LANGUAGE ISSUES
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
SOURCES & LINKS
The History of English - How the English language went from an obscure Germanic dialect to a global language


 
TIMELINE
 

Here is a list of important dates in the development of the English language. The selection of events is my own, and the dates are approximate in some cases, but it gives at least some idea of the time-scales involved, and puts the developments into some sort of perspective.

c.6000 BC
Britain cut off from continental Europe by English Channel

Before English
c.5000 BC
Proto-Indo-Europeans living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
c.1000 BC
Germanic Indo-European tribes living in parts of modern-day Germany
c.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
c.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)
c.600
Anglo-Saxon language covers most of modern-day England
c.660
“Cćdmon'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
c.800
Old English epic poem “Beowulf” composed
865
The Danes launch 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)
c.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
1349-50
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 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 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
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 Alphabeticall”
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
United States ends slavery after Civil War
1922
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) founded
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
Second edition of the “Oxford English Dictionary” is published
 


INTRODUCTION
HISTORY
TIMELINE
LANGUAGE ISSUES
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
SOURCES & LINKS
 
© 2011 Luke Mastin