History Timeline Prehistoric (Ancient World) Prehistoric time is the time when it is generally accepted that there was human life on earth. However, it is a time before people could write and there is therefore little evidence from the time apart from tools, bones and cave paintings (the word prehistoric literally means before history and refers to the fact that there are no records). It is also difficult to pinpoint when prehistory ended and history started as writing was introduced at different times across the world. The prehistoric time is split roughly into three time periods, the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age; these apply at different times to different parts of the world.
First evidence of modern humans in Britain. They were hunter-gatherers. Classed as the Stone Age which is a broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make tools and weapons. Lasted roughly 3.4 million years and ended between 6000BC and 2500BC.
c. 5600 BC
The land bridge joining Britain to Europe is flooded. Britain becomes an Island.
c. 5500 – 4000 BC
Ancient Sumer. An ancient civilisation in modern day Iraq.
c. 4500 BC
Farming techniques are brought over from Europe. Simple pottery begins to be made.
c. 3300 BC
First stone circles and ‘henges’ are erected.
3300 – 1900 BC
The Indus Valley. Based in northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India.
c. 3000 BC
New Stone Age begins (Neolithic times).
C. 3000 – 30 BC
Ancient Egypt. Was a well organised society with a pharaoh in charge. People lived on the banks of the Nile (the first civilised society).
c. 2500 BC
Bronze Age begins. Originally made items from copper. Way of life continued as before. Steady population growth. Roundhouses were main form of domestic building.
People learn to make bronze weapons and tools. Soon became skilled at making things from gold, silver and copper. These skills had been brought over from Europe.
c. 2000 BC
Evidence of field systems. Stonehenge completed.
Trade routes begin to form.
1500 – 1100 BC
The Shang Dynasty (China). During this time, 30 separate kings ruled from 7 different capitals. One of the most important contributions during this time was the invention of writing.
Small villages are first formed.
Iron Age begins; iron replaces bronze as most useful metal.
The Celtic people arrive from Central Europe.
Roman Britain (55BC - 410AD) Rome first invaded Britain in 55 BC under Julius Caesar. This expedition was too hastily organised and he failed to defeat the tribesmen of Britain. He returned the year later, but left as he felt Britain did not offer him the treasures that he was expecting. It was not until 43 AD that Britain was invaded again, this time for good, under Emperor Claudius. Whilst it took 30 years to conquer the rest of Britain (and not Scotland which never fell), the Romans occupied Britain for nearly 400 years and left a lasting legacy.
Julius Caesar heads first Roman Invasion but later withdraws.
Julius Caesar makes another attempt to invade England, but was forced to return to Gaul (France) to deal with unrest there.
Romans invade (under the orders of Emperor Claudius) and Britain becomes part of the Roman Empire.
London was founded (Londinium).
Queen Boadicea / Boudicca lead the Iceni in revolt against the Romans. She led an army of 100,000, although between 70 to 80,000 Romans and British were killed in the battles. Eventually the British were defeated at the Battle of Watling Street.
The Roman Empire fell and the Romans withdrew from Britain.
Anglo Saxon Britain (450AD - 1066AD) In 410, Rome could not send reinforcements to help Britain who were being attacked by ‘barbarians’. Britain was being attacked by the Irish (west), the Picts (north) and various Germanic speaking peoples from the east (Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ did not become common until the eighth century to distinguish between the people of Britain and the Saxons who remained in Germany.
Invasion of the Juts from Jutland, Angles from South of Denmark and Saxons from Germany. Britain divided up into the Seven Kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, Essex, Sussex and Kent.
Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, location for famous graves from Anglo-Saxon times, probably the royal cemetery of the kings of East Anglia. A 30 foot oak ship was buried here along with many other objects.
St Augustine brings Christianity to Britain from Rome and becomes Archbishop of Canterbury
Northumbria becomes the Supreme Kingdom
King Ecgfrith’s (of Northumbria) army was defeated at Nechtansmere (in Angus) and this out an end to northern expansion. The rising power of Mercia in the south curbed ambitions here too.
Death of the Venerable Bede, author of the ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ which is the main source for the history of Britain from the late sixth to the early eighth century.
Mercia becomes the Supreme Kingdom and King Offa builds a Dyke along the Welsh border (marking the boundary between Mercia and Wales).
Viking Britain (865 AD - 1066AD) Raids by Scandinavian pirates began at the end of the eight century. The reason for their invasion was to find loot and booty and so they targeted monastic sites in particular. Whilst the raids were sporadic at first, by 840 they began to settle in various parts of Britain. By the 860s conquest was the clear aim. By the early 11th century, the King of Denmark became the King of England.
Invasion of the Great Danish (Viking) Army. By 876, the Vikings had permanently settled in England.
York captured by Viking army.
King Alfred defeats the Vikings but allows them to settle in Eastern England
King Alfred formally agreed to a boundary between his kingdom and land ruled by the Viking King Guthrum. The North became subjected to the Danelaw, the rules of the Vikings.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle starts (a collection of recorded stories and events chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons).
Eastern England (Danelaw) conquered by Saxons
Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking King of Jorvik, is thrown out of York. After he was killed in the battle, the Vikings agreed to be ruled by England’s king.
King Sven of Denmark (with his son Canute) sail up the rivers Humber and Trent to be accepted as king in the Danelaw. The Saxon King Ethelred the Unready flees. (Ethelred was a weak king. He paid the Viking raiders gold to stop their attacks, called Danegeld. However, they kept attacking and so Ethelred’s soldiers killed Viking families in Danelaw. This made the King of Denmark so mad that he invaded England).
King Sven dies but his son, King Canute / Cnut of Denmark captures the English Crown.
Ethelred’s other son, Edward the Confessor is invited to return from Normandy and become King after Harthacnut died suddenly (Edward was his half-brother).
Westminster Abbey is completed.
Harold Godwinson becomes the last Anglo-Saxon King after the death of Edward the Confessor. King Harold is eventually defeated by William, Duke of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.
The Middle Ages (Medieval) Britain (1066AD - 1485AD)
1066 (5th Jan)
Edward the Confessor dies. Harold Godwinson named as his successor.
1066 (25th Sep)
Harald Hardraada (King of Norway) felt that he should be the King of England. He invaded and fought against the Saxons at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He was killed.
Work starts on the Tower of London (the White Tower) under the orders of King William.
Building work starts on Cathedrals and monasteries.
The Domesday Book is compiled (this was to allow William to know the assets of each village for when he needed to raise money).
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury is killed in Canterbury Cathedral.
The Magna Carta (Great Charter) is signed at Runnymede by King John. It limited the powers of the monarchy.
King Edward invades and defeats the Welsh. The Welsh came under English rule and castles were built to protect his newly acquired lands.
King Edward invades Scotland but they were not as easily defeated as the Welsh.
The Scots under William Wallace defeat the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Robert Bruce crowned King of the Scots.
Scots under Robert Bruce defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.
King Edward claims the throne of France. Start of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
The Black Death arrive. In Europe the death rate was 1 in 3. In England nearly half of the population died.
The Peasants' Revolt. A major uprising against the poll tax but was eventually suppressed.
English defeat the French at the Battle of Agincourt. This crippled France. Henry V married the French king's daughter and Henry's son was made heir to the throne of France.
The Civil war (Wars of the Roses) starts between the Houses of York and Lancaster.
Tudor Britain (1485 - 1603)
The Battle of Bosworth Field and the end of the Wars of the Roses. King Richard III (House of York) was killed. Henry Tudor from the House of Lancaster became King Henry VII.
Henry VIII becomes King (the same year he marries Catherine of Aragon). Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a girl, Mary in 1516.
Henry marries Anne Boleyn. The Pope excommunicated Henry and Archbishop Cranmer. In Sep, their daughter Elizabeth was born.
Henry splits from the Catholic Church and forms the ‘Church of England’ through the Act of Supremacy.
Anne Boleyn was beheaded for treason. Henry married Jane Seymour (she gave birth to his son, Edward but died shortly afterwards).
Act of Union joins England and Wales.
Beginning of the dissolution of the monasteries.
Henry marries Anne of Cleves. He divorces her later in the year. He marries Kathryn Howard in the same year.
Henry has Kathryn Howard beheaded for adultery. He marries his final wife, Katherine Parr in 1543.
Henry VIII dies and is succeeded by his son Edward. Edward was only 9 years old.
Edward dies and is succeeded by his staunchly Catholic sister, Mary. She gets the nickname 'Bloody Mary' for her punishment of heretics.
Mary I died and her protestant half-sister, Elizabeth I begins her reign.
Elizabeth I orders the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. She had kept her prisoner for 19 years but was implicated in the Babington Plot. She was considered too much of a threat to Elizabeth's reign.
The steady decline of relations between England and Spain led to the Spanish Armada. Spain sent 300 ships to invade England, but they were defeated.
Death of Elizabeth I. Her 44 years on the throne had brought stability for England. Her reign was called 'the Golden Age'.
The Stuarts (1603 - 1714)
James VI (Stuart) of Scotland becomes James I of England; uniting the two Kingdoms. Elizabeth had not married and had no heirs.
Guy Fawkes tries to blow up Parliament on Nov 5th. It was a catholic conspiracy against the protestant king.
The Union Flag adapted as the National Flag. It symbolised the union of Scotland and England through the reign of King James VI and I.
The Pilgrim Fathers set sail aboard the Mayflower. They were puritans who wanted to start again in the New World.
War With Spain. In 1630, both sides signed a Treaty ending the war.
War with France.
Parliament dissolved by King Charles and not recalled for 11 years (when he needed to raise money).
King Charles I introduced ship tax. This made him very unpopular.
In August 1642, the English Civil Wars began between the King and his supporters (Royalists / Cavaliers) and Parliament and their supporters (Parliamentarians / Roundheads).
King Charles executed. England became a republic.
Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland.
Cromwell’s conquest of Scotland.
Cromwell proclaimed Lord Protector of England. He ruled as a monarch.
Restoration of Monarchy under King Charles II
Samuel Pepys starts his diary.
The Great Plague. In London 100,000 people were killed. The only other place affected was Eyam in Derbyshire.
The Great Fire of London swept through the city from 2 to 5 Sep 1666. The death toll was small but the fire was destructive and caused over £1billion damage (in today's terms).
English Bill of rights. All England’s monarchs to rule in partnership with Parliament. Catholics were barred from the English throne.
Act of Union between Scotland and England to form a united Parliament of Great Britain.
Georgian Britain (1714 - 1837)
George of Hanover, Germany, succeeds Queen Anne to the throne. Although over 50 people were closer blood relatives, as they were catholic they were prohibited through the Act of Settlement to take the throne. George was Anne's closest living protestant relative.
Sir Robert Walpole becomes the first Prime Minister.
Bonnie Prince Charlie is defeated at the Battle of Culloden. Charles Edward Stuart was also known as The Young Pretender. He wanted to regain the British throne for the exiled house of Stuart. His uprising was unsuccessful and ultimately led to defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
The Bridgewater Canal opened from Worsley to Manchester. Considered the first 'true' canal in Britain it required an aqueduct to cross the River Irwell.
The Spinning Jenny was invented by James Hargreaves which mechanised the weaving of cloth.
Watt's first steam engine.
1775 - 1783
America goes to war with Britain for their independence which they made official on 4 July 1776 through the Declaration of Independence. In 1783 war was over and Britain agreed to a peace which recognised the sovereignty of the US.
Start of the Industrial Revolution.
First convict ships sent to Australia
Edward Jenner invented small pox vaccination. James Phipps was the first person to be vaccinated against small pox.
Act of Union with Ireland.
Richard Trevithick built the first steam locomotive. It was officially tested in Feb at the Penydarren Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
Lord Nelson defeats Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was a naval battle between Britain and the combined troops of France and Spain.
Abolition of the Slave Trade Act which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire.
Duke of Wellington defeats Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. This marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
World’s first railway opens between Stockton and Darlington (27 Sep).
The Metropolitan Police Act was passed in Parliament after being introduced by Sir Robert Peel. It established a police force.
The Great Reform Act passed. This made small changes to voters rights but it was a start.