At LanguageHumanities, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Often referred to as UK literature, British literature primarily refers to all literature produced by British authors from the United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and Isle of Man. British literature includes works in Old, Middle, and Modern English, each of which represents a different period. British literature also includes early works written in Gaelic, Welsh, and Latin.
British literature has come to possess different characteristics over the years. People can fully appreciate it by learning the different types of literature that came to play in its history. UK literature is often divided into British works in Latin, early Celtic literature composed in the UK, Old English works, Middle English works, and Modern English compositions. There are only a few surviving early UK literature texts. Celts mostly made use of oral literature, and Henry VIII’s razing of monasteries caused the obliteration of much of the world’s literary treasures.
Old English works were written between 450 and 1066. Probably the most famous Old English work is Beowulf. The oldest original texts of British literary works came from this period, including "The Hymn of Creation" by the poet Cædmon.
Works written in Middle English were composed between 1066 and 1485. This historical period began when William the Conqueror successfully united factions in England, particularly the Normans and the Saxons, and when the Domesday Book was created. Examples of the best-known works in this period are The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory.
The Modern English era is comprised of all literary works composed by British authors beginning in the early 16th century and onward. This period can be further categorized into different types of literature. The Renaissance period is considered to have lasted from 1500 to 1660, and is best remembered for works written by William Shakespeare. During this period, sonnets and effusive forms of British poetry also rose in popularity, such as the ones written by Thomas Wyatt and Edmund Spenser.
Other periods making up the Modern English era include the Restoration Age, the Romantic Period, the Victorian Period, and all later periods. Gothic novels also became extremely popular in this era, particularly in the 18th century. Notable authors in this era include John Locke of the Restoration Period, Sir Walter Scott and John Keats of the Romantic Period, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Jane Austen of the Victorian Period, and Agatha Christie of the 20th century.