A Time Line for American Literature to 1870

Key: [*] Readings in Norton Anthology.
Literary dates are usually of composition.
Publication dates in parentheses (Note: many dates are disputed) .
See also appendix to Oxford Companion to American Literature

Before 1584
-18,000? First human migration to North America, 18,000 to 30,000 BC
-10,000? First human archaeological traces in present US
-5,000 Permanent human settlements in Southwest US
-3,000 Epic of Gilgamesh
-2,000 Rise of Maya civilization
-1193 Greeks destroy Troy
-1000 Basket maker Indians build pit houses in Southwest US
-850 Homer, Iliad and Odyssey
-500 Pueblo Indians introduce kiva and cliff dwellings
-300 Temple of Sun built at Teotihucan, Mexico
200 Rise of Maya writing, astronomy, mathematics, calendar
470 Peak of Maya civilization in southern Mexico
500 Mound builder Indians in Ohio and Mississippi valley
550 Toltec kingdom in Mexico
700 Rise of Ghana as center of African gold, salt, and slave trade
700 Pueblo period I (houses above ground) (Southwest U. S.)
900 Mayas migrate to Yukatan
900 Pueblo period II (irrigation)
950 Chaco Canyon metropolis of 12 to 16 Pueblos
964-1191 New Maya empire
981 Norsemen discover Greenland
1073 Mesa Verde Pueblo center (Southwest Colorado)
1100 Sinchi civilization in Peru
1100 Pueblo period III (multi-story buildings)
1200 Cambridge university founded
1200 Rise of Mali, capital Timbuktu, incorporating Ghana
1225 Magna Carta signed
1233 Spanish Inquisition begins
1290 Expulsion of Jews from England
1300 Pueblo period IV (dispersal and migration)
1306 Expulsion of Jews from France
1307 Dante, Divine Comedy
1325 No Plays in Japan
1348 Boccacio, Decameron
1364 Aztecs construct capital, Tenochtitlan
c1387 Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
1430 Modern English begins to replace Middle English
1437 Inca empire in Peru
1454 Gutenberg invents movable type
1476 Caxton prints first books in England
1492 Jews expelled from Spain
1492 First professional book publishers
1492 Columbus' first voyage of discovery
1492 Native American population n. of Rio Grande 1-2 mil.
1495 Syphilis epidemic in Europe
1496 Jews expelled from Portugal
1499 African trading stations of Portuguese, Dutch, English,
French, others
1500 Bantu supremacy in Africa
1501 Rapid spread of printing in Europe
1501 Spanish introduce Negro slavery to West Indies
1503 da Vinci, Mona Lisa
1507 America named for explorer Amerigo Vespucci in map of
South America
1509 Spanish settlers in New World urged to bring black slaves
1509 Henry VIII ascends throne of England
1516 Sir Thomas More, Utopia
1517 Luther's 95 theses
1518-22 Spanish conquest of Mexico
1519 Aztecs believe Cortes to be descendant of god Quetzalcoatl
1519-22 Magellan circumnavigates globe
1525 Wm. Tyndale first translates New Testament into English
1530s Spanish conquest of Southwestern U. S. and Latin America
1533 Pizarro executes Inca of Peru
1535 Henry VIII becomes head of Church of England,
breaks with R. C. church
1536 Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (1542)
1539 Henry VIII issues the Great Bible, trans. by Miles Coverdale
1536 William Tyndale burned at stake in England
1541 Calvin introduces Reformation to Geneva
1543 Copernicus, On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies
1543 Millenial economic and sexual commune at Munster
1544 Peruvian silver mine found at Potosi
1553 Queen Mary I ascends throne of England, restores Roman
Catholic church
1554 Oxford and Trinity (Dublin) colleges founded
1555 Aztec dictionary published
1558 Queen Elizabeth I ascends throne, restores Church of England
1559 First index of forbidden books
1560 Geneva Bible with margin commentaries printed by Calvinists
1562 Religious wars against Huguenots in France
1563 Spanish Inquisition introduced to New World
1563 Term "Puritan" appears in England
1563 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 2000 French Protestants
1564 British explore Virginia
1565 St. Augustine (Florida), first U. S. city, founded by Spanish
c1565 Narrative of Coronado Expedition(1596)
1568 Mexican silver at Zaatecar mined by Spanish
1568 Bishop's Bible issued to counteract popular Geneva Bible
1576 The Theatre, first playhouse built in London
1577-80 Sir Francis Drake circumnavigates globe
1582 Pope Gregory reforms calendar
1588 Defeat of Spanish Armada by England
1588 Marlowe, Dr.Faustus
1588 Shorthand manual published in England

1584-1660
1584 Sir Walter Raleigh founds Roanoke colony, Virginia
1587 The Rose, London theatre (archaeological excavation 1980s)
1590 First water closet in England
1590s Era of traditional literary forms (sonnet, epic, tragedy, ode)
1580s English Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser
1599 Globe Theatre built (Shakespeare's plays performed there)
1600 Telescope invented in Holland
c1600 Spanish conquest of Pueblos
1603 James I ascends throne
1603 Raleigh imprisoned for treason
1604 Oxford and Cambridge granted parliamentary privilege
(revoked 1948)
1605 Cervantes, Don Quixote
1607 John Smith founds Jamestown colony, Virginia
1608 Separatists (Pilgrims) leave England for Holland
1609 Henry Hudson explores river named for him
1609 Galileo Galilei observes planets through telescope
1610 Founding of Santa Fe (New Mexico), second oldest U.S. city
1611 King James (Authorized) Version of Bible
1611 Shakespeare, The Tempest
1612 Tobacco cultivation starts in North America
1612 Manhattan trading post (Dutch)
1614 Pocahantas, Indian princess, marries John Rolfe
1614 Napier discovers logarithms
1620 Pilgrims Mayflower settle Plymouth, MA, Mayfl. Compact
1619 First Negro slaves in North America
1623 Shakespeare, First Folio (posthumous)
1624 * John Smith, General History of Virginia
1625 Charles I ascends throne
1626 First classic trans. in America: George Sandys' Ovid's Metamorphosis
c1630 * Wm. Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1630-1650 (1856)
1630 Puritan dissenters settle Massachusetts Bay Colony (Boston)
1630 * Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity
c1630 * Winthrop, Journal, 1630-49 (pub. 1826)
1635 Speed limit set for London hackney cabs: 3 mph
c1635 * Thomas Morton, New England Canaan
1635 Bay Psalm Book, first book printed in U. S. colonies
1636 Roger Williams founds Rhode Island, est. religious freedom
1637 Pequot Indian War in Connecticut
1637 Harvard College founded
1638 Torture abolished in England
1641 Closing of theatres in England
1642 English Civil War begins between Charles I and Puritan party
1644 John Milton, Areopagitica, on freedom of press
1649 Execution of Charles; Puritan Commonwealth established
under Cromwell
1650 World population 500 million (est.)
1650 * Anne Bradstreet's poems first published in London

1660-1800
1660s New fashion of literary satire, rhymed couplets, oratorios
1660 Charles II ascends throne in Restoration; theatres re-opened
1660 Half-way covenant in New England
1661 John Eliot translates Bible into Algonquin (first Amer. ed.)
1661 John Evelyn writes first tract on air pollution (London)
1662 Founding of Royal Society (rise of new science)
1662 * Michael Wigglesworth, The Day of Doom
1664 New Amsterdam (Dutch) becomes New York (English)
1666 Puritans from CT under Robert Treaty settle Newark, N.J.
1667 John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667-1674)
1669 John Locke's model constitution for Carolinas
1670 First minute hands on clocks and watches
1673 * Samuel Sewall, Diary (to 1729)
1675-76 King Phillip's War (Wampanoag and Narrgansett in
New England)
1675 * Mary Rowlandson, Captivity Narrative
1678 John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress (1678-1684)
1680 Pueblo revolt against Spanish rule
1680s * Edward Taylor's poems (published 1939-1981)
1682 Philadelphia founded
1681 William Penn charter for Pennsylvania
1687 Sir Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica
1690 John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding
1691 Massachusetts absorbs Plymouth Colony
1692 Salem witchcraft trials
1692 * Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World
1700s Rise of non-English emigration to North America
1701 Yale College founded
1702 * Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana
1702-13 Queen Anne's War in North America
1704 Bach's first cantata
1704 Boston Newsletter weekly, first newspaper in America
1705 * Robert Beverly, History of Virginia
1709 First copyright laws in England
c1710 * William Byrd, Secret Diary (pub. 1941)
1711 Addison and Steele begin Spectator magazine in London
1712 Last execution for witchcraft in England
1718 Yale University founded
1719 Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
1720s Rise of printing, newspapers, magazines, novels in England
1726 Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
1727 Quakers demand abolition of slavery
1730s Plains Indians acquire horses, develop tepee, sign language
1735 John Peter Zenger, N. Y. publisher, acquitted of libel charges
1730s Great Awakening in colonies
1733 * Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth
c1739 * Jonathan Edwards, Personal Narrative
1740 Richardson, Pamela
1741 * Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
1746 Princeton founded as College of New Jersey
c1750 Philadelphia emerges as main city of colonies
1751 Encyclopedie begins in France
1755 Lisbon earthquake
1755-63 French & Indian War in North America
1759 Voltaire, Candide
1759 Haydn's first symphony
1759-67 Sterne, Tristam Shandy (pub. 1760-67)
1763 Pontiac's rebellion in Northwest Territory
1765 Stamp Act
1765 Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty or give me death"
1765 James Watt invents steam engine
1766 Repeal of Stamp Act
1766 Rutgers College founded
1767 Mason-Dixon survey between Pennsylvania and Maryland
1768 First number of Encyclopedia Britannica (first edition 1771)
1770 Boston Massacre
1773 Boston Tea Party
1773 Phillis Wheatley, Poems
c1770 * John Woolman, Journal (1774)
1771-90 * Franklin, Autobiography (published 1791, 1868)
1774-83 * John Adams and Abigail Adams, Letters (published 1875)
1775-83 American Revolution (War of American Independence)
1776 * Paine, Common Sense and The Crisis
1776 * Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
1776 Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
1777 Congress adopts Articles of Confederation
1782 * Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer
1783 Peace of Paris ends American Revolution
1783 Montgolfier brothers ascend in fire balloon
1784 * Franklin, Those who Would remove to America
1784 * Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
1785 London Times newspaper begins
1787 Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia
1787 * Hamilton, Madison, Jay, Federalist Papers
1787 * Royall Tyler, The Contrast
1787 Mozart, Don Giovanni
1789 Constitution ratified; first president & congress in N. Y.
1789 French Revolution; storming of Bastille
1790 Philadelphia becomes U. S. capital
1791 Boswell, Life of Johnson
1792 Denmark abolishes slave trade
1793 * Paine, The Age of Reason
1793 Roman Catholic church suppressed in France
1796-1815 Napoleonic wars
1797 Coleridge, Kubla Khan (published 1816)
1798 Haitian revolution
1798 Wordsworth and Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads
1799 Rosetta stone found

1800-1840
1800 Robert Owen starts New Lanark
1801 Robert Fulton launches Nautilus, first submarine
1803 Louisiana Purchase
1804 Duel of Hamilton and Aaron Burr on Weehawken, N. J. cliffs
1804-06 Lewis & Clark expedition
1807 Slavery abolished in British dominions
1807 Robert Fulton's first steamboat
1809 U. S. prohibits African slave trade
1809 Washington Irving, History of New York (Knickerbocker)
1811 Luddites destroy machines in northern England
1811 Wm. Henry Harrison destroys Tecumseh settlement
1812 War of 1812
1814 George Stephenson invents steam locomotive
1814 London Times printed on steam press
c1814 * William Cullen Bryant, Thanatopsis
1815 USS Fulton, first steam warship (38 tons)
1815 Resettlement begins of Native Americans westward on reservations
1816 Blackwood's magazine begins
1817-21 Latin American Wars of colonial independence
1818 49th parallel becomes U.S.-Canadian border
1819 Spain cedes Florida to U.S.
1819 * Irving, Sketch Book
1820 Missouri Compromise
1821 Sequoyah invents Cherokee alphabet of 85 characters
1822 Liberia founded as haven for freed U.S. slaves
1823 Monroe Doctrine
1823 * Cooper, The Pioneers, first Leatherstocking novel
1826 Erie Canal
1828 * Cooper, Notions of the Americans
1828 Noah Webster, Dictionary of the American Language
1828 Working Men's Party founded in New York City
1828 Weekly newspaper begins in Cherokee language
1829 Slavery abolished in Mexico
1829 First U. S. patent for typewriter
1830s Rise of Philadelphia as publishing center
1830 Joseph Smith establishes Mormon Church
1830 Revolutions in Paris
1830 Lyell, Principles of Geology
1830 Stendhal, The Red and the Black
1830 Seba Smith begins Jack Downing letters
1831 William Lloyd Garrison begins Liberator
1831 * Edgar Allan Poe, Poems
1832 New England Anti-Slavery Society founded
1832 Ralph Waldo Emerson resigns from Unitarian church
1832 * Nathaniel Hawthorne, My Kinsman, Major Molineux
1833 General Trades Union established in N.Y.
1833 New York Sun, first successful penny paper
1833-35 Charles Darwin, voyage of Beagle
1834 End of Spanish Inquisition
1834 Indian Intercourse Act to define Indian Territory in Oklahoma
1834 Cyrus McCormick invents reaping machine
1834 Charles Babbage invents analytic engine (computer prototype)
1836 Samuel Colt invents revolver
1836 Texas becomes independent from Mexico
1836 Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus
1836 * Emerson, Nature
c1836 Transcendental Club
1837 Queen Victoria ascends throne of England
c1837 Trans-Atlantic steamship service
1837 Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers
1837 Economic panic in U. S.
c1837 Steam printing press produces cheap periodicals and literature
1837 Democratic Review begins
1837 * Emerson, The American Scholar
1837 * Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales
1837-8 Poe, Arthur Gordon Pym
1838 Underground railroad established
1838 John James Audubon, The Birds of America (4 vols.)
1838 * Emerson, Divinity School Address
1839 * Poe, Tale of the Grotesque and Arabesque
1839 Daguerre invents photography

1840-1870
1840 Proudhon on property
1840s Rise of New York as publishing center
1840s "Young America"; agitation for International Copyright
1840s Spread of Utopian social communes in U.S.
1840-60 * Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poetry
1841 * Emerson, Essays: First Series
1841 New York Daily Tribune, ed. Horace Greeley
1841 P. T. Barnum opens the American Museum in N. Y.
1841 First university degrees awarded to women in U. S.
1842 Brook Farm and The Dial magazine
1842 Eugene Sue, Mysteries of Paris becomes expose bestseller
1843 Take-off of industrialization in U. S.
1844 Anti-British war movement in U. S. over Oregon
1844 Horace Wells uses first anesthetic in dentistry
1844 Samuel F. B. Morse invents telegraph
1845 Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
1845 Texas annexed by U.S.
1845 * Frederick Douglass, Narrative
1845 Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century
1845 * Poe, The Raven and Other Poems
1846 First U. S.-Mexican war
1846 Potato famine in Ireland
1846 Elias Howe invents sewing machine
1846 Herman Melville, Typee
1847 George Boole, Mathematical Analysis of Logic
1847 Literary World, first U. S. literary weekly, ed. Duyckinck
1848 * Lowell, A Fable for Critics
1848 European Revolutions of 1848
1848 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Communist Manifesto
1848 Spiritualism fad in U. S.
1849 California gold rush
1849 * Emerson, Representative Men
1849 End of British copyright protection for U. S. writers
1849 * Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
1850-55 "American Renaissance" period
1850 World population 1.1 billion (est.)
1850 Rise of Boston as a publishing center
1850 * Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
1851 Great Exhibition, London
1851 * Hawthorne, House of the Seven Gables
1851 * Melville, Moby Dick
1851 * Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
1851 New York Times begins
1852 Melville, Pierre
1853 Crystal Palace Exposition, New York
1853-5 * Melville, Bartleby; Tartarus; Benito Cereno
1854 * Thoreau, Walden
1855 * Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (editions thru 1891)
1856 Flaubert, Madam Bovary
1856 Melville, Confidence Man
1857 Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal
1857 Dred Scott decision
1858 * Emily Dickinson begins to write poems
1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates
1859 John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry
1859 Suez Canal construction begins
1859 Darwin, Origin of Species
1860-90 Bloody period of U. S.-Indian wars
1861-65 American Civil War
1861 Pasteur develops germ theory
1861 * Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
1862 R. J. Gatling invents 10-barrel rotating gun
1863 Emancipation Proclamation
1863 * Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
1863 * Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, Lemorne versus Huell
1864 Karl Marx, First Intl. Workingmen's Assoc., London & NYC
1864 George Pullman builds first railroad sleeping car
1865 Atlantic cable completed
1865 Gregor Mendel formulates laws of genetic inheritance
1856 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
1865 MIT founded
1865 Ratification of 13th amendment abolishing slavery
1866 Alfred Nobel invents dynamite
1867 Marx, Das Capital
1867 Alaska purchased by U. S. from Russia for $7.2 million
1867 John William DeForest, Miss Ravenal's Conversion
1868 Ratification of 14th amendment
1869 Suez Canal opens
1869 Transcontinental U. S. railroad completed
1869 Mendeleev discovers periodic table of elements
1869 Height of U. S.-Indian warfare (1869-75)
1869 Rutgers and Princeton play first intercollegiate football game
1870 First edition of Dictionary of National Biography (England)
1870 Franco-Prussian War
1870s Invention of barbed wire
1880s * Melville writes Billy Budd (pub. 1924)
1891-2 Deaths of Melville, Whitman, Lowell