The medieval writers of the Middle Ages are represented by Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Malory, together with many other less-known individuals.
During the Renaissance, we have the playwrights Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare, the authors Francis Bacon and Thomas More, and the poets John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, Edmund Spencer, and Philip Sydney, to name a few.
The seventeenth century Enlightenment was a prolific period that gave us William Congreve, David Hume, Samuel Johnson, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Thomas Paine, Alexander Pope, and Jonathan Swift.
Throughout the Romantic Movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was a wide corpus of literary figures that included Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Wordsworth.
The Victorian Era was a rich literary period during which many writers flourished among whom were Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, H. G. Wells, and Oscar Wilde.
Since then, the so-called Modernist and Postmodernist Periods include writers, poets, and playwrights such as Rupert Brooke, Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Robert Graves, Henry James, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, John Le Carré, C. S. Lewis, Iris Murdoch, George Orwell, Harold Pinter, George Bernard Shaw, J. R. R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Arnold Wesker, and Virginia Woolf, and William Butler Yeats.
Delving into the literary output of such writers allows us to develop an understanding of how societies have evolved despite the consistency of human behaviour throughout time. These historical pictures of the world provide powerful insights into how and why life is as it is, and help us to develop the tolerance, empathy, and pragmatic wisdom necessary to progress in this age of uncertainty, liberalism, and choice.