Supporting the study of English literature from the Middle Ages to the present, this book is designed as an introductory text AND a helpful reference tool for an entire English Literature degree. Its key mission is to help students understand the link between the historical context in which the literature developed, how this has influenced the literature of the period and how subsequent periods in literature have been influenced by those that precede them. The book is carefully structured for undergraduate use, with a rich range of illustrations and textboxes that enhance and summarise vital background material. The seven chronological chapters are written by a team of expert contributors who are also highly experienced teachers with a clear sense of the requirements of the undergraduate English curriculum. Each analyses a major historical period, surveying and documenting the cultural contexts that have shaped English literature, and focusing on key texts. In addition to the narrative survey, each chapter includes a detailed chronology, providing a quick-reference guide to the period; contextual readings of select literary texts; and annotated suggestions for further reading.