Timeline of England's History
Explore 500,000 years of the past with our expandable timeline, taking you on a whistlestop tour through some of the most famous moments in England's story. You'll meet emperors and conquerors, hear tales of fire and famine, discover inventors and adventurers, unearth prehistoric bones and come face to face with kings and queens.
500,000 BC Prehistory
‘Boxgrove man’, a six-foot tall man of the species Homo heidelbergensis, is alive at this time.
13,000 BC Prehistory: The Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age
Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers carve images of animals onto the walls of caves at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire.
9500 BC Prehistory: The Mesolithic, or Middle Stone Age
The last ice age ends, and Britain is occupied continuously from this date onwards. At this time, Britain is still attached to Europe.
Britain’s oldest known house was built at Howick, Northumberland.
Sea levels rise and Britain becomes an island. The people who live here are still hunter-gatherers.
4000 BCThe Neolithic, or New Stone Age
The first farmers arrive in Britain by boat. They grow crops and raise animals like cattle and goats.
Early monuments including causewayed enclosures like Windmill Hill, and long barrows like Stoney Littleton are in use.
Elaborate and large monuments like Avebury henge, stone circles like the one at Stanton Drew and mounds like Silbury Hill are built.
2300 BCThe Bronze Age
People arriving from Europe bring with them the knowledge of how to make tools from copper and bronze, as well as new styles of pottery and ways of burying the dead.
The last major building works are completed at Stonehenge. People now bury their dead under round barrows, like the ones at Winterbourne Poor Lot and Flowerdown.
750 BCThe Iron Age
People begin to make their tools and weapons from iron and build hillforts as secure places during wars.
Roman general Julius Caesar and his army briefly land in Britain. They defeat some British tribes but then leave to fight elsewhere.
AD 43The Roman Invasion
The Romans invade Britain again, and this time they stay, starting a new era in British history.
Caratacus, chief of the British Catuvellauni tribe, is betrayed by Queen Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, after they had been fighting the Romans together for years.
Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe leads a rebellion against the Romans, which ends in defeat at the Battle of Watling Street.
Agricola, a Roman general, becomes governor of Britain. He decides to invade northern Britain.
The Romans start to build Hadrian’s Wall, marking the northern edge of their empire.
Construction starts on the Antonine Wall, in what is now Scotland, but it is later abandoned around AD 160.
Around this time, Roman Britain is divided into two provinces - one in the north and one in the south.
The Roman army leaves Britain to go and defend Rome, and the Romano-British are left to rule themselves. Tintagel was built around this time.
AD 449Anglo-Saxon England
According to legend, the brothers Hengist and Horsa land on the Kent coast to begin Anglo-Saxon settlement in England.
Augustine arrives in Kent to begin converting the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.
The first English monastery is created in Canterbury.
The Synod of Whitby is held at Whitby Abbey, to decide who controls the English church, and set key religious festival dates.
The first abbess of Whitby Abbey, Hilda, passes away. She later becomes St Hilda.
Offa becomes King of Mercia, making him the most powerful English ruler.
The monks of Lindisfarne Priory are killed by raiding Vikings from Scandinavia.
A great Viking army lands in England and attempts to conquer it.
Alfred the Great triumphs in the Battle of Edington against Viking invaders.
The Danish prince Cnut successfully invades England and becomes the new king.
Edward the Confessor becomes king after the death of his half-brother Harthacnut, passing English rule back to the Anglo-Saxons from the Danes.
Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwinson is named king.
Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, claims the throne of England, but is defeated by King Harold at Stamford Bridge near York.
October 1066The Norman Conquest
Duke William of Normandy, claiming England for himself, crosses the English Channel with an army and defeats the forces of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings.
William is crowned king of England on Christmas Day.
Following a few rebellions, King William begins building castles to enforce his power.
Work begins on the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the tale of the Norman Conquest.
William the Conqueror founds Battle Abbey on the spot where Harold was killed.
William marches north and crushes resistance to his rule there.
William has a survey taken about the places in England and the people who own them, it is known as Domesday Book.
William dies and is succeeded by his son William II.
Rievaulx Abbey is founded in Yorkshire. Over time, it becomes one of the greatest Cistercian abbeys in Europe.
Henry I dies. The throne is seized by King Stephen. Civil war breaks out between his supporters and those of Henry’s daughter Matilda.
Matilda’s son King Henry II becomes the first king of the Angevin dynasty. He built an empire stretching from Scotland to the Pyranees in France, and spent money building and improving castles, including the Great Tower at Dover Castle.
Henry II dies and is succeeded by his son Richard I the Lionheart.
Richard the Lionheart dies and is succeeded by his brother King John.
King John’s harsh government causes a rebellion, and he is forced to agree to the Magna Carta, which limits his power.
Simon de Montfort leads a rebellion against King Henry III. In 1266, Henry III’s army besieges Simon de Montfort’s followers at Kenilworth Castle - the longest siege in English medieval history. The rebellion ends in 1267.
Edward I invades north Wales, to impose English rule.
Edward II’s army is defeated by the Scots in the Battle of Bannockburn, ending the English bid to control Scotland.
The Black Death arrives in England, killing between 30%-60% of the population.
The Wars of the Roses begin. These are a series of civil conflicts between the aristocratic families of Lancaster and York, who both want to rule England.
The Wars of the Roses end when Henry VI defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and is crowned the first Tudor king.
Henry VIII is crowned king. He soon marries Catherine of Aragon.
Catherine doesn’t give Henry a son, so he asks the Pope for a divorce so he can marry Anne Boleyn.
The Pope’s Roman Catholic Church won’t grant him a divorce, so Henry VIII forms his own Church of England.
Henry VIII begins closing hundreds of religious houses and seizes their land and wealth. This is now known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Henry VIII executes Anne Boleyn and marries Jane Seymour. She gives birth to a son, Edward, a year later.
England's last monasteries are closed.
Three wives later, Henry VIII dies and the nine-year-old Edward becomes king. He promotes Protestantism.
Edward VI dies. His cousin Lady Jane Grey lasts only nine days as queen before Edward’s half-sister, Mary I, becomes the first woman to successfully claim the throne. She restores Catholicism in England and some Protestants are burnt at the stake.
Mary I dies. Her half-sister Elizabeth I becomes the new queen, reinstating Protestantism and later executing some Catholics.
Elizabeth I dies without having any children, so the crown goes to the Scottish James I, the first of the Stuart kings.
The Gunpowder Plot to blow up the House of Lords is foiled, preventing the assassination of the king and many leading nobles.
The crown passes to Charles I. His reign is marked by religious and political strife.
The English Civil War begins, which sees Parliamentarians and Royalists fight for control of the country.
Charles I is executed, and England has no king or queen for the first time in over 800 years. Oliver Cromwell and parliament rule England.
Charles II, who had avoided capture by hiding in a tree near Boscobel House, returns from France to become king.
London is hit by an outbreak of the plague, and many thousands of people die.
A fire in a bakery spreads and destroys a large part of the city in The Great Fire of London.
The Catholic James II is overthrown. His daughter, Mary and her husband William are invited to take the throne.
England and Scotland are joined together to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
George I, who was born in Germany, becomes the first king from the House of Hanover.
Robert Walpole becomes the first proper British Prime Minister. He later lives in 10 Downing Street.
The Jacobite Rising attempts but fails to replace George II with Bonnie Prince Charlie, who escapes to France.
The Seven Years War. Britain is at war with France, and defeats French forces in Canada.
A new machine for making cloth, the spinning jenny, helps drive the Industrial Revolution.
Captain James Cook sets out on a voyage where he discovers new lands in the Pacific Ocean.
The revolutionary government in France declares war on Britain. Britain is at war with France until 1802, from 1803 until 1814, and again in 1815.
Fearing that new technology is taking their jobs, workers known as ‘Luddites’ revolt and break machinery.
The Prince Regent rules in place of his ill father George III for nine years, during what is known as the Regency.
Forces led by the Duke of Wellington defeat Napoleon and the French at the Battle of Waterloo.
George Stephenson invents a powerful kind of steam locomotive that runs on tracks – the first train.
The Great Reform Act is passed, giving more people the vote, and giving seats in Parliament to many more towns and cities
Slavery is abolished throughout the British Empire, freeing more than 800,000 slaves – but their former owners receive generous compensation.
The Georgian era ends when William IV dies. He is succeeded by Victoria, who becomes queen at 18. She gives birth to the first of her and Albert’s nine children in 1840.
The steam-powered ship SS Great Western, designed by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, crosses the Atlantic in record time.
Charles Dickens’ book Oliver Twist, is published, telling the story of a poor orphaned London boy.
The Great Exhibition opens in Hyde Park - a huge display of manufactured goods from all parts of the world. It is open from 1 May to 15 October, during which time, seven million people come to visit it.
Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species is published, revealing his theory of evolution.
Nurse Florence Nightingale lays the foundations for modern nursing at her school at St Thomas’s Hospital.
Joseph Lister details how antiseptic can be used to treat wounds.
Queen Victoria is given the title Empress of India after it formally became part of the British Empire in 1858.
Cragside in Northumberland is the first house to be lit by electricity after Joseph Swan fits arc lamps.
The Elementary Education Act is passed into law and all children under ten must be now be educated.
Queen Victoria dies, ending the Victorian era. Her oldest son, the Prince of Wales, is crowned as King Edward VII.
The Titanic, the largest and most opulent ocean liner in the world, hits an iceberg and sinks on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. 705 people are rescued but over 1,500 people die.
The First World War begins in 1914. Around 16 million people die as a result of the war.
The Spanish flu spreads throughout the globe, killing at least 20 million people, the deadliest pandemic since the Black Death.
Howard Carter discovers Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, sparking a craze for Egyptology.
Women over the age of 21 are given the right to vote.
Edward VIII becomes king, but he abdicates, handing the throne to his younger brother, George VI.
The Second World War begins in 1939. The war lasts for six years, during which 60 million people die.
Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers build the Colossus - the world’s first programmable electronic computer - at Bletchley Park, to help decode German secret wartime messages.
Clement Attlee’s Labour Party win a general election, after promising to build a welfare state and a more equal society.
Britain’s Indian Empire becomes independent, forming the modern nations of India, Pakistan, Burma and Sri Lanka, and later Bangladesh.
Aneurin Bevan, Health Secretary in the Labour government, launches the National Health Service, to provide health care for everyone in Britain.
Elizabeth II becomes queen. Households across the country watch her coronation on television and celebrate with street parties.
Liverpool band The Beatles become famous, inspiring millions of fans in Britain and around the world - the birth of pop culture.
Decimalised currency (pounds and pence) replaces pounds, shillings and pence.
Britain joins the European Economic Community (later known as the European Union).
The government holds a referendum to ask the British people if they want to stay in the EEC: over 67% vote to stay in.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web, heralding the beginning of the information age.
The Channel Tunnel linking London and Paris is officially opened – the first land link between Britain and Europe since the last Ice Age.
Watch: England's Kings and Queens through the ages
Now that you've discovered England's past through our expandable timeline, watch this animated video to see a history of England's rulers through the centuries, from Athelstan to Elizabeth II. Then click the link below to download and print your own poster of England's Kings and Queens.Download your poster