Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events

Text-only version
Pre-1650 1650 1700 1750 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840
  1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920
Literature, Music, and Movies
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s
1650-1699 Political and Social History Literature
1650-1654 1652 Massachusetts general court rules that the territory of Maine lies within the boundaries of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, thus ending Maine's immediate hopes of independence.  1650, Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse
1653 John Eliot, Catechism in the Indian Language, first book printed in an Indian language.  He will later (in 1661) translate the Bible into the Algonquian language.
1654 Edward Johnson, Wonder-Working Providence of Sion's Saviour in New England
1655-1659 1656 (Summer) Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans whip, imprison, and banish the first Quakers to arrive in the colony. Legislation in 1658 bars the Quakers from holding their services, called "meetings." 
22 September. In Maryland, an all-woman jury, the first in the colonies, acquits Judith Catchpole on charges of murdering her unborn child. 
1659. 27 October. Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson are hanged for refusing to leave Massachusetts.  Mary Dyer, a follower of Anne Hutchinson and later a Quaker, is scheduled to hang with them but is reprieved at the last minute.
1656 John Hammond, Lea and Rachel; or, The Two Fruitfull Sisters, Virginia and Maryland
1660-1664 1660. 1 June. Mary Dyer is hanged after defying an expulsion order by returning to Boston in May 1660. 
1661 Massachusetts continues to punish Quakers by hanging those who refuse to leave the colony.  After a royal edict requires  the Massachusetts authorities to release imprisoned Quakers and return them to England, the authorities instead allow them to leave for other colonies.  By December, corporal punishment for Quakers and other dissenters is suspended in the Massachusetts Bay colony by order of Parliament.
1664 Maryland Colony passes a law mandating lifetime servitude for black slaves; previous precedent had allowed freedom for those who converted to Christianity and established legal residences there. 
1664 New Amsterdam becomes New York after Governor Peter Stuyvesant's surrender to English forces.
1662 Michael Wigglesworth, The Day of Doom. This immensely popular poem sold 1800 copies in its first year,  and according to the Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume 1), "about one out of every twenty persons in New England bought it" (284).
1665-1669 1665 Legislation in several states tightens the bonds of slavery. English law provides that slaves may be freed if they convert to Christianity and establish legal residence, but Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia pass laws allowing conversion and residence without freeing the slaves. John Eliot's Indian Grammar (1666); Image courtesy of the American Political History siteJohn Eliot, The Indian Grammar (1666)
1670-1674 1670 Hudson's Bay Company is chartered.
1673 Marquette and Joliet travel from Lake Michigan down the Mississippi as far as the Arkansas River, completing a 2500-mile journey of exploration.
1671 Samuel Danforth, A Brief Recognition of New Englands [sic] Errand into the Wilderness, a powerful jeremiad 
1673-1729 Samuel Sewall's diary
1675-1679 1675-78 King Philip's War.  It begins when Metacomet (King Philip) leads an attack against Swansea in retaliation for the Plymouth colony's execution of three Wampanoag tribe members. Metacomet is betrayed and shot on 12 August 1676, and the war formally ends when Sir Edmond Andros makes peace in Maine on 12 April 1678. 
1675 (September) The Massachusetts settlements of Deerfield and Hadley experience the first of three raids from the Wampanoag and Nipmuck peoples. 
1676. May 2. Mary Rowlandson is ransomed after her capture during an attack on Lancaster. 
30 July. Bacon's Rebellion. Tobacco planters led by Nathan Bacon ask for and are denied permission to attack the Susquehannock Indians, who have been conducting raids on colonists' settlement. Enraged at Governor Berkeley's refusal, the colonists burn Jamestown and kill many Indians before order is restored in October. See also these more extensive accounts: Robert Beverley (1704), Mr. King (1835), Mary Newton Standard (1907)
1678 Anne Bradstreet's Poems, a second edition of The Tenth Muse corrected by Bradstreet, is published  posthumously in Boston. 
1676 Increase Mather, A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New England
1680-1684 1681 4 March. William Penn receives a charter for land on which he will found Pennsylvania 
1683 Penn and Native Americans negotiate a peace treaty at Shackamaxon under the Treaty Elm 
1684 Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is revoked after critical reports reach England.  This ends the requirement of church membership for voting.
1682 Mary Rowlandson, The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
1682-1725 Edward Taylor, Preparatory Meditations (published 1939, 1960) 
1685-1689 1686 Governor Edmund Andros  begins issuing a series of unpopular orders aimed at the consolidation of colonies into one large settlement.  He dissolves the assemblies of New York and Connecticut, limits the number of town meetings in New England to one per year, places the militia under his direct control, and forces Puritans and Anglicans to worship together in the Old South Church. 
1689 April. Rebellious colonists force Andros to take shelter in a fort  for his own protection.Cotton Mather supports the rebellion. 
  • 25 July. Andros is ordered back to England to stand trial. The colonies reestablish their previous systems of government. 
  • 1684 Increase Mather, Remarkable Providences (An Essay for the Recording of Illustrious Providences)
    1685 Cotton Mather, Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions
    1690-1694 1690 (1689-1763). The series of wars known as the French and Indian War begins with King William's War.  Schenectady, N. Y. and other areas are burned by French and Native Americans; Massachusetts colonists capture Port Royal, Nova Scotia; and Canadian forces destroy Casco, Maine. 
    1692 (May). Salem witchcraft trials begin. From June-September 22, 20 people are executed.
    1693 The College of William and Mary is founded.
    1692 Deodat Lawson, A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft
    1692, 1693 Cotton Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World
    Increase Mather, Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits, a volume denouncing the use of spectral evidence in witchcraft trials. 
    1695-1699 1697 Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance for the witchcraft trials; Samuel Sewall confesses guilt from his Boston church pew. 
    1699 Peace treaty at Casco Bay, Maine, brings hostilities between the Abenaki Indians and the Massachusetts colony to an end. 
    Salem Witch Trials Timeline chronicles the events in 1692.
    Witchcraft Accusations.  This interesting interactive site provides a map and a timeline as well as information on accusers and the accused. 
    American History from Revolution to Reconstruction at Rutgers includes essays, documents, outlines, and biographies.

    Comments to D. Campbell.