Timelines to Visualize History

A Project by the Department of Medieval English Literature and Historical Linguistics, University of Düsseldorf

Overview for "Political"

Begin End Event Description Keywords
410 -

Romans leave Britain

In 410, the Romans left Britain after centuries of occupation. Few remnants of this era in the history of the British Isles can be found, among them several place names that are of Latin origin (e.g. Dubris = Dover, Glevum Colonia = Gloucester, Leodis = Leeds, Londinium = London).
Language Contact, Political, History
449 600

Invasion of Germanic Tribes

The famous scholar Bede mentions the year 449 as the traditional date of the coming of Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians. The Germanic tribes summoned by King Vortigern settled and eventually took over most of the area which is now England. They brought their language with them, which at that time was the variety of Western Germanic. While 449 is recorded as the first arrival of the Germanic tribes, they continued to colonize the British Isles for another century. This process is often called consolidation.
Political, Old English Period, History
600 850


From the 7th to the 9th century, there was no political unity in England and the changing overlordship divided the land in to seven kingdoms. These kingdoms were Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex and Kent.
History, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
793 900

The First Viking Age

The sacking on the monastry of Lindisfarne marked only the beginning of the Viking Age. In the second half of the 9th century the threat became even more serious, as the Danes started regular raids and only eventually the kingdom of Wessex, under the reign of King Alfred, offered resistance.
History, Old English Period, Political, Vikings, Language Contact
793 -


The first Viking attack was the raid on Lindisfarne monastery in the north of England. It was an easy target because the monks had no defenses, believing God would protect them. There were many similar raids in the following decades, and they were often directed against monasteries and churches.
Old English Period, Political, Vikings, History
827 871

Early Anglo-Saxon Kings

King Egbert of Wessex was the first king to expand his territories beyond his own kingdom. He was later succeeded by his son Æthelwulf, whose four sons became the following kings, the fourth of which was Alfred the Great.
History, Kings + Rulers, Old English Period, Political
871 899

Alfred the Great

Alfred was the so-called first King of England, accepted by all the English that had not submitted to the Vikings. He defeated the Vikings multiple times and made a treaty with them to establish the Danelaw. Alfred's kingship extended beyond mere military leadership; his non-military achievements include his initiative to restore Latin learning and education in England.
Old English Period, Political, Religious, Standardisation, Vikings, Danelaw, Kings + Rulers, History
890 -

Danelaw & The Treaty of Wedmore

After some fruitless attempts from the Danes to invade Wessex, King Alfred brought London under his control in 886. Around 890 a new treaty, the Treaty of Wedmore, was sealed between Alfred and the Danish leader Guthrum. It confirmed the separation of the northern and north-eastern part of England as an area under Danish control; this part came to be known as Danelagu (Danelaw), the area where Danish law prevailed.
History, Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Vikings
899 924

Edward the Elder

Alfred's first successor was his son Edward the Elder. He was a West-Saxon king who was also acknowledged as overlord in Mercia, whose nobility cherished a tradition of some independence. He began to expand in 917, and at the end of the year 918, he had brought the whole of England south of the river Humber under his control, and in 920 the kings of York, Scotland and Strathclyde submitted to Edward, so that the West-Saxon rule had been extended further north. Edward the Elder died in 924 and was succeeded by his son Athelstan.
Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, History
900 980

Unification under Wessex

At the end of the 9th century, England was divided: the north was under the Danelaw, the south and south-west were under English rule. The decades which followed after the end of King Alfred's reign (the first half of the 10th century), are usually referred to by historians as the period of the re-conquest of the Danelaw by Alfred's successors. There were multiple times of conflict and struggle, but at the end of Eadred's reign, in 955, the north was under English control.
History, Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Vikings
924 939


Athelstan's reign was characterized by his attempts to secure English control over the north; on the one hand, he arranged Anglo-Scandinavian marriages in order to support peaceful relationships with the north, on the other hand, he won decisive battles, as in 937 at Brunanburh when, together with his brother Edmund, he stopped a combined Scottish-Viking army. Athelstan died in 939 and was succeeded by his younger brother Edmund.
History, Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
931 933

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a truly impressive and justly famous successor to the world history of Roman extraction. King Alfred had a it compiled from earlier sources covering the years from Christ's birth to 892; it becomes a fuller historical report for the 9th century, and is today one of our most important sources for Anglo-Saxon history as a whole.
Literature, Old English Period, Political, Prose
937 -

Battle of Brunanburh

Though the place where Edward the Elder and his brother Edmund stopped a combined Scottish-Viking army has not been identified as yet, the battle has become well known. The West-Saxon victory was praised in a poem which was written into the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 937.
Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Vikings, Poetry, Literature
939 955

Edmund and Eadred

Athelstan died in 939 and was succeeded by his younger brother Edmund. Edmund's reign (939-946) was a time of continued conflicts in the north, and of changing military fortune. Edmund was succeeded by his brother Eadred in 946, who at first was acknowledged in the Anglo-Scandinavian areas and at the end of Eadred's reign, in 955, the north was under English control again.
History, Danelaw, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
959 975

King Edgar and the Benedictine Revival

King Edgar's most prominent achievement in non-military activities was his massive support of the revival of monastic life in England. He installed the three leading reformers Dunstan, Æthelwold and Oswald, increased the number of reformed monasteries, expelled secular clerics and replaced them with reformed monks and abbots. It re-inspired cultural life in late Anglo-Saxon England and lead to a revival of education in Latin and English.
Old English Period, Political, Religious, Kings + Rulers, Standardisation, History
978 1016

Æthelred and the Return of the Vikings

Æthelred's long reign is usually regarded as an unlucky one. He struggled with massive Viking raids, paying large amounts of tribute, as well as with treachery and desertion due to his 'bad rule'. His nickname the Unræd (un-counsel) suggests that he was ill-advised by his counsellors. He fled to exile in 1013, when the Danish King Swein invaded the country, only to be asked to return and rule the English in 1014 after Swein died.
History, Old English Period, Political, Vikings, Kings + Rulers
980 1042

The Second Viking Age

After Æthelred fled to Normandy into exile, the Danish king Swein was acknowledged as king of all England in 1014. He was succeeded by his son Cnut (1016-1035), whom the English preferred over Æthelred's son Edmund. Both of his sons, Harold (1035-1040) and Harthacnut (1040-1042) became king after him, but with Harthacnut the male line of the Danish dynasty ended and Edward the Confessor, son of Æthelred the Unread and Emma of Normandy, became the last Anglo-Saxon king.
History, Language Contact, Old English Period, Political, Vikings
991 -

Battle of Maldon

The heroic poem The Battle of Maldon praises the resolute, loyal, but futile resistance of ealdorman Byrhtnoth and his men against a larger Danish army, which systematically ravaged along the south-west coast from Essex to Hampshire in 991. Loyalty, courage, and treasure are recurrent themes in secular heroic poetry; they are reflected in poems such as Beowulf and The Battle of Brunanburh.
Literature, Old English Period, Poetry, Political, Vikings
1002 -

St. Brice's Day Massacre

After multiple struggles with Viking raids, Æthelred gave the order to kill all Danes living in his kingdom. This massacre was only one of the many poor political decisions which made King Æthelred's rule a 'bad one' – many Danes had been living peacefully in England for generations and inter-married with the Anglo-Saxons. The fact that it is believed that Swein's sister and brother-in-law were also killed in this massacre, would furthermore explain Swein's decision to conquer England in 1003.
History, Old English Period, Political, Vikings
1016 1035


Cnut (also known as Canute or Knútr) was the son of Swein, who briefly ruled England during Æthelred's exile. During most of his reign, Cnut also more or less controlled Denmark and, less effectively, Norway, but he was fully accepted as king of England and did not suppress the conquered country. He married Æthelred's widow Emma and also continued a policy of supporting the church. When Cnut died in 1035, his son Harold inherited the throne. When Harold died in 1040, his brother Harthacnut became king, but then died in 1042.
History, Old English Period, Vikings, Kings + Rulers, Political
1035 1042

Harold and Harthacnut

When Cnut died in 1035, he left behind two sons by two different wives, each one favored for the throne by a party with an eye on their own interests. One claimant was Harthacnut, by then king of Denmark, the other was Harold. Since Harthacnut was engaged in conflicts in Norway, Harold was acknowledged as king by 1037. However, when he died in 1041, Harthacnut succeeded to the throne and reigned until his death in 1042.
History, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, Vikings
1042 1066

Edward the Confessor

Edward was Harthacnuts half brother and the son of Æthelred and Emma. He was made king in 1042. He had spent most of his life in exile in Normandy, so his relationship to Normandy was closer than to either Denmark or England. A long-lasting conflict between Edward and the family of Godwin, the earl of Wessex, characterised Edward's reign in the 1050s and early 1060s. He died heirless as the last Anglo-Saxon king, a situation that led to the Norman Conquest. He was a very religious king, which earned him the title the Confessor.
History, Old English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, Norman Conquest
1066 1089

William I (the Conqueror)

William was the first Norman king of England. His predecessor Edward the Confessor was his first cousin once removed and had maintained a close relationship to William, having promised the throne to William during his stays in Normandy and making William's claim to the throne well-founded. William became king of England after the Norman Conquest. During his reign, William gave orders to compile a great survey of all the landed possessions in England to strengthen his authority.
History, Middle English Period, Kings + Rulers, Norman Conquest, Political
1066 -

Norman Conquest

When Edward the Confessor died without an heir, three people made a claim the throne: First was Harold Godwinson who ascended the throne, but was attacked by Scandinavian king Harald Hardrada in the north. Though Harold Godwinson won the battle, William of Normandy used the opportunity to attack in the south. Godwinson and his weakened armies hurried to the south, but lost the Battle of Hastings again William.
Political, Old English Period, Middle English Period, Norman Conquest, History
1086 -

Doomsday Book

William the Conqueror gave orders to compile a great survey of all the landed possessions in England in 1086 which should provide the king with reliable assessment of taxes due to the crow. This Domesday Book is an inventory of England which made it easier to track taxes. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest administrative achievements of the Middle Ages.
Literature, Middle English Period, Political, Norman Conquest, Prose
1087 1100

William II

While the eldest son of William I, Robert Curthose, inherited Normandy, England went to the third in line – William II, after the death of his elder brother and second-in-line Richard. William II did not really extend his dominion, but still managed to secure Cumberland and Westmoreland and defeated the King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1091. William II died under questionable circumstances being hit by an arrow on a hunting trip, supposedly by of one of his own men.
History, Kings + Rulers, Middle English Period, Political
1096 1204

The Crusades

The crusades were a series of religious wars whose purpose was it to recapture the Holy Land. The crusades were at once preached with great enthusiasm across Europe and many nobles set out on the great adventure. The crusaders had various motivations to go on the long campaign: greed, penance, and true belief in the holy war were among the most common. Most crusader groups took the land way to the Holy Land, only a few chose the sea voyage. There were four major crusades, the third of which saw the participation of Richard I (Lionheart).
History, Middle English Period, Political, Religious
1100 1135

Henry I

Henry Beauclerc was crowned Henry I after the death of his brother William II. His eldest brother Robert contested his reign over England, but Henry defeated him at the Battle of Tinchebray and imprisoned him for the rest of his life. His only legitimate son died in 1120 and Henry I declared his daughter, Matilda, his heir. When Henry died of illness in 1135, Stephen of Blois succeeded him, leading to a long civil war with Matilda which brought great misery and devastation to the country.
History, Kings + Rulers, Middle English Period, Political
1102 1167

Empress Matilda

As only heir to Henry I, Matilda was supposed to inherit her father's throne after his death. But since she was female and, above all, married to the count of Anjou, she was not appealing to the Normans, who favored her cousin Stephen of Blois instead of her. This conflict led to a long civil war between them and only ended after Stephen agreed to make Matilda's son Henry II his successor.
History, Kings + Rulers, Middle English Period, Political
1118 1170

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was one of the most influential martyrs in the history of the English Church. Outstanding administrative talents marked him out for a rapid career and he was made Chancellor of England by Henry II, whom he was a close friend of. After multiple arguments about the powers of the Church, Becket fled to France and when he came back six years later, he was assassinated after enraging the king.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Religious
1122 1204

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II out of love in 1154, after having previously been married to the king of France. She brought new territories into the marriage, making Henry II's realm the largest ever ruled by an English king to date. She is also known for her love of culture; she founded her own literary court where she surrounded herself with troubadours and artists from her southern territories. Under her patronage, the ideals and codes of courtly love were promoted in literature.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
1135 1154

Stephen of Blois

Stephen of Blois, the son of William the Conqueror's daughter, claimed the throne of England in 1135. He was supported by the citizens of London, his brother the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop Roger of Salisbury despite having taken an oath of fealty to Henry I's daughter Matilda. This led to a long civil war which brought great misery and devastation to the country.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
1164 -

Constitutions of Clarendon

The constitutions are a set of 16 articles passed by Henry II and designed to define the relationship between church and state in England. Half of the articles were concerned with the limitation of the procedures of ecclesiastical judges and the competence of the church courts. These articles reaffirmed the fact that the king's consent was needed for the excommunication of his tenants, that cleric who committed a crime should be punished. Furthermore, the articles touched on matters like the custody of vacant sees and England's relations with the papacy.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Religious
1189 1199

Richard I

Richard I rebelled against his father Henry II and overthrew him with the help of the French king Philip II. While Richard participated in the third crusade, he left his throne to his brother John Lackland who then conspired against him with his former ally Philip II. When he returned home, he reconciled with his brother and went to war against France. Winning many decisive battles during the crusade and being pious and righteous earned him the famous title of Cœur de Lion - the lionhearted.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Religious, Kings + Rulers
1199 1216

John Lackland

King John's reign is seen as the darkest period in medieval English history. His loss of Normandy in 1204 and his excommunication by the pope in 1209 led to a serious rebellion of the nobility in 1214. Eventually John had to sign the Magna Carta, acknowledging the constitutional framework of his father Henry II.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
1215 -

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is a document that acknowledges the constitutional framework of Henry II. During his troublesome reign, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. One of its outstanding achievements is that no one should be imprisoned, forfeit his lands or be exiled except by the judgement of his equals or common law.
History, Middle English Period, Political
1258 1265

Baron's War

The Magna Carta could not stabilize the Crown's power in the long run, and open rebellion arose against Henry III between 1258 and 1265, in the Baron's War. Led by the king's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, a coalition of barons tried to impose reforms on the king. The parties were successful in turns. Eventually the king and his son the future king Edward I defeated the barons and Simon's army was killed alongside himself.
Middle English Period, Political, History
1272 1307

Edward I

During the Baron's War, Edward supported Simon de Montfort before changing sides in favor of his father, Henry III. He defeated Montfort in battle, restoring royal power. He succeeded his father in 1272 and later reformed feudal land law and legislation in favor of the Crown. Wars in France and Scotland mark Edward I's reign. He attacked France in 1297, but had to return due to William Wallaces rebellion. Never being able to fully conquer Scotland, Edward died in 1307, leaving the throne to his son, Edward II.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
1307 1327

Edward II

Edward was a king of England whose reign was marked by conflict with the nobles until he was eventually overthrown by his wife in favour of his son. He had a very close and controversial relationship with a man called Piers Gaveston, and it is rumored that this was the primary reason for his disposal.
History, Middle English Period, Kings + Rulers, Political
1327 1377

Edward III

Being the nephew of the French king Charles IV on his mother's side, Edward III saw himself as his legitimate heir. When his claimed was denied, it led to renewed struggles between the English and French and when Philip VI seized Guienne, Edward declared himself King of France and went to war. Winning the famous Battle of Sluys and Battle of Crécy, Edward proved himself to be a capable military leader, adding large territories in France to the English Crown.
History, 100 Years War, Kings + Rulers, Middle English Period, Political
1330 1376

Edward the Black Prince

Edward the Black Prince, also Edward of Woodstock (after his birthplace), was the eldest son of Edward III and the first English prince to not become king, since he died a year before his father. He was an exceptional military leader, who proved himself during the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers, and a founding Knight of the Garter. He was succeeded by his son Richard II.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers
1337 1386

First Phase of the 100 Years' War

Political reasons, feudal disputes between England and France, and the striving for economic power were the main causes of this series of wars which erupted in 1337. What followed was not constant warfare, but rather a series of campaigns and battles with long interruptions of diplomatic negotiations and truces. After the death of the Black Prince in 1376 and his father in 1377, the young king Richard II and his regents were no longer capable of waging war against France; fighting ended in 1386 and a truce of 30 years was signed in 1396.
History, Middle English Period, Political, 100 Years War
1340 -

The Battle of Sluys

During the First Phase of the 100 Years' War, Edward III declared himself king of France after Philip IV seized Guienne. He invaded Northern France and won a decisive naval battle near Sluys in the Scheldt estuary. After the French lost almost their entire fleet, the battle resulted in the English control of the Channel, while the French navy was no longer a threat to England.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political
1340 1399

John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt was the third of Edward III's five surviving sons. By marriage to Blanche of Lancaster in 1359, he became Duke of Lancaster, which made him the most powerful nobleman of the realm. When the king fell ill, Gaunt ruled the country in his stead. He was a shrewd statesman, but his unorthodox methods and inability to compromise antagonized the Church and the Commons. Many suspected that he was aiming for the crown, but they were proved wrong when Gaunt stood faithfully to his young nephew King Richard II.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, 100 Years War
1346 -

The Battle of Crécy

The Battle of Crécy was the first great English land victory over the French during the first phase of the 100 Years' War. On August 26, 1346, Edward III led his army of less than 10,000 men to the Northern French village Crécy. It was especially archers who inflicted terrible losses on the thrice as large French army and it was virtually drowned in a shower of English arrows.
100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political, History
1348 -

The Black Death

The Black Death (the plague) ravaged England in the 1340's, reducing its population by at least one third. The effect of the plague on agrarian society was complex, leading to attempts to reimpose feudal rights and contributing to outbreaks of violence, such as the Peasants' Revolt. Eventually, it led to the virtual disappearance of villeinage in England and great prominence of the middle class, marking the end of feudal society.
History, Middle English Period, Political
1356 -

The Battle of Poitiers

Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III, won the second great English victory of the first phase of the 100 Years' War at the Battle of Poitiers on September 19, 1356. Philip's successor, King John II of France, and the Duke of Burgundy were captured and led to London where they were held in chivalrous captivity until a ransom was paid.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political
1381 -

The Peasants' Revolt

The Peasants' Revolt was an uprising of the lower and middle classes, prompted by the increase of taxation due to the conflict with France and the devastation of the plague. They demanded a tax reduction and an end to serfdom.
History, Middle English Period, Political
1412 1431

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc became the heroine of her day when she successfully led French armies against the English. She had seen visions of saints and of God telling her to fight against the English; so she became an able military leader, very unusual for a girl of her time. Her wearing men's clothes made her easily suspicious to the Church, and so the English had no difficulties to finally accuse her as an heretic. She was burnt in May 1431, but her death was largely a political act.
100 Years War, Middle English Period, Religious, Political, History
1414 1453

Second Phase of the 100 Years' War

Henry V resumed the 100 Years' War when he invaded France in 1415. After winning the decisive Battle of Agincourt, he gained control over all of France north of the Loire in the following years. With the Treaty of Troyes the French king declared his own son illegitimate and recognized Henry V as his heir and regent, until under Joan of Arc, the French forces freed Orléans, defeated the English and drove them north. From 1449 onwards, the French regained nearly all territories and eventually the war ended in 1453 without any peace treaty.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political
1415 -

The Battle of Agincourt

After seizing the French port Harfleur, Henry V was intercepted by the French on his retreat to Calais. Henry's 6,000 men faced about 25,000 French knights and soldiers, but against all odds, the English won this decisive battle of the second phase of the 100 Years' War because of their lightly equipped archers who had the advantage over their heavily armoured enemies. This victory paved the way for Henry's success in the following years and he took Rouen and Paris and controlled all of France north of the Loire.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political
1420 -

Treaty of Troyes

Supported by House of Burgundy, Henry V took Rouen and Paris and controlled all of France north of the Loire. In 1420, a peace treaty was signed at Troyes virtually fulfilling the English aims of war. The French king, Charles VI declared his son illegitimate and recognized Henry V as his heir and regent. Henry married the French king's daughter, Catherine of Valois, and returned triumphantly to England in 1421.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political
1421 1461

Henry VI

Henry VI inherited the throne when he was only a year old. He ruled from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471. By marrying Margaret of Anjou, he hoped to achieve peace, but France resumed the 100 Years' War and by 1453 had regained nearly all the territories they had lost. This is said to be one of the main reasons (next to Henry's mental illness) for the breakout of the Wars of the Roses, during which Edward IV defeated and imprisoned Henry VI and claimed the throne in 1461.
History, 100 Years War, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, Wars of the Roses
1455 1485

The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses were the conflicts between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, which were both descended from Edward III. These conflicts resulted in military action from 1455 to 1485. Edward IV defeated Henry VI, was crowned and ruled until his death in 1483. Richard III then usurped the throne, but was killed in battle against Henry Tudor, who had the Lancastrian support. Henry VII's (Tudor) marriage to Elizabeth of York ended the Wars of the Roses and paved the way for the rise of the Tudor dynasty.
History, Middle English Period, Wars of the Roses, Political
1461 1483

Edward IV

Edward IV, being the great-grandson to Endmud Langley, the fourth son of Edward III, was one of the main protagonists of the Wars of the Roses on the York side. He defeated Henry VI and his wife Queen Margaret and imprisoned him in the Tower of London, where he later died - or was probably murdered. Until his death in 1483, Edward's rule was firmly established and his kingdom prospered, with the first English printing press being established at Westminster by William Caxton.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, Wars of the Roses
1485 -

The Battle of Bosworth

In the final battle of the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor had returned from his exile in France, where he had gathered an army of about 2,000 men (mostly mercenaries and exiles). On their way to fight Richard, they were joined by Welsh troops. The two parties met at Bosworth – Richard wanted a quick end by leading a separate charge to kill Henry, but was surrounded by an attack from the sidelines. Richard was killed, fighting bravely. His body was dragged into Leicester, and when Henry Tudor entered the city, he was proclaimed king.
History, Middle English Period, Political, Wars of the Roses
1485 1509

Henry VII

Henry Tudor seized the throne from Richard III when he killed him, with the support of the Lancastrians, in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry finally united the Houses of York and Lancaster with his marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. He restored stability after the Wars of the Roses, but the last years of his reign were overshadowed by his financial greed and legal struggles. Still, he reigned peacefully and was succeeded by his son Henry VIII after his death.
History, Kings + Rulers, Middle English Period, Political, Wars of the Roses