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Best Books for Studying History of English Literature

Books for Studying History of English Literature

Literature in itself is different from the history of English literature. One can study the literature produced in various genre leisurely. However, no one really bothers to study the history of English literature other than the students and their teachers. Whosoever studies the history, must look for, at least once, the good books on history of literature. Students are often wrestling with the thoughts on which one to buy and which one to ignore. I have received many requests to recommend some good books and today I will be doing the same. If you are into academics, you need to be serious and once you are serious, you are seriously in need of good books which will explain to you the history of English literature in a simple way. Once you have the basic idea of how the history progresses and how it takes turns, you will need various perspectives on various ages of the English literature. Once you are settled with a multitude of thoughts on different ages, you will surely want to know if there are more advanced books there. Fortunately, there are many of them! So guys, now we will start the discourse on books for studying history of English literature.


History of English Literature books

Graduation books vs post-graduation books?

Well, there is no conflict like this! Good books are simply for every level. The books you might have read during your graduation will surely be helpful even if you advance in your academic pursuit. So, please keep any such thoughts out of your mind that books might not be suitable for post-graduation or graduation.

List of the books:

1. A Critical History of English Literature by David Daiches: This book comes in two volumes. The first volume contains chapters from the beginning of English Literature to John Milton and the second volume comprises of the chapters from the Restoration to the present day. The best thing about this book is the comprehensive description of the various ages in the history of English literature. The description serves as the backdrop to make the readers understand ‘what resulted in what’ sort of things. Then, another thing that you will like about the book is its style. The chapters encompass all the popular and lesser-known figures producing a specific genre of literature in a particular age. For example – Victorian Prose: John Henry Newman to William Morris, The Victorian Poets, The Victorian Novel etc. About the content of the book, there is no need to say anything! The book is just marvellous! David Daiches, the Scottish literary historian and critic, has left no grounds untouched. His opinions on literary figures are very useful for the students and teachers alike. The Indian students, who care for UGC NET examination, must go through these two volumes at least once.

Get it from Amazon right now (with discounts too): 

A Critical History of English Literature by David Daiches on Amazon (Combo Pack)

2. History of English Literature by Edward Albert: Less is known about the author of this book but the book is very important for the students who want to understand the history (based on timeline) of English literature. The author has divided this book into fourteen chapters and the names of them are based on the popular literary figure of the age. Moreover, the inclusion of a ‘time chart’ at the beginning of the chapter is very useful to have an overview of the age. The content of the book is rather short but succinct! You can easily understand the life and works of an author in the language the author has used in this useful book. I will recommend it to those who want to have a quick overview of the history of English literature, very quickly. Edward Albert will not disappoint you!

Get Edward’s book from Amazon with some discount:

History of English Literature by Edward Albert on Amazon

3. A Short History of English Literature by Harry Blamires: I don’t know whether students are generally aware of this book or not. Believe me, this book is really useful! Harry Blamires, who served as the head of the English Department at King Alfreds College, has done a wonderful job in writing this book. He has divided the book into twenty-two chapters and each chapter, from the first, ‘The fourteenth century’ to the last, ‘The twentieth century novel’ is truly wonderfully produced. The citations from the works of eminent literary figures and the discourse, which clarifies and scans, are all very well done. For example, the information about life and works of Dickens, the central Victorian Novelist, has been packed in the pages 357-62. A reader will have adequate information as well as understanding about Dickens after reading the pages. Blamires’ language is simple yet witty and his arguments are informative and enriching at the same time. He very well understands which berry to eat and which to throw back! If you can find this book, do find and study. Get this book on discount from Amazon Online Store:

Literature by Harry Blamires on Amazon

4. A History of English Literature by Robert Huntington Fletcher: This book might seem odd at the very first sight. However, this book is very useful for those who just want an overview of the English literature history. The author has chosen to divide the English literature history into nine different periods (only up to Victorian age). What you might find interesting as well as useful is Fletcher’s idea of pointers and summaries. He has also included, at the end of the book, the assignments for study as well as the list of important editions on some of the important literary figures. In just around 300 pages, Fletcher has given the very much comprehensive document discussing the history of English literature! I will highly recommend this book to all those who are just taking up English literature as their graduation study.

History of English Literature by R H Fletcher on Amazon

5. A History of English Literature by Michael Joseph Alexander: Published by the palgrave foundations, this is a highly commendable book on the history of English literature! Michael Alexander, widely known for his modern verse translation of Beowulf, has written this book with a very interesting introduction, an introduction like which we rarely find in the books. He has divided the book into fourteen sections, including a ‘postscript on the current’. This is the only book I find which discusses the English literature of the modern period so vividly and largely. For the twentieth century English literature, we have four units in this book and each of them covers a wide range. This book will prove very very and very much useful to the students (Indians mostly) who have to study the modern period in English literature. The six pages of the ‘postscript’ are packed with quality content and useful information on the ‘current’ in English literature. The author has discussed briefly about contemporary poetry, contemporary novel and postmodernism. Look for this book on Amazon: click the link below:

M J Alexander

(Note: The books below are rather scholarly editions on history of English literature. With information, these books will also enrich the readers with the first hand opinions of the authors on the major events in English literature history, major literary personalities and the various aspects. These books will also be useful for any kind of research work in the field of English literature.)

6. History of English Literature by Legouis and Cazamian: This is undoubtedly the most versatile book on the history of English literature that I have read! Read from any page or begin any chapter, you will be surprised or rather delighted to read the elaborated language and the things being discussed. Praised by many and loved by most of the academicians, Legouis and Cazamian’s History of English Literature stands apart from the rest in the league. I will highly recommend this book to the students (because most of the academicians already have it in their library) but only on one condition that they have already gone through another book (preferably, one of the books mentioned above) before they take it up. This book will enhance their understanding of different ages in the English literature history as well as strengthen their approach to view the literary works.

Literature History by Legouis and Cazamian on Amazon

7. The Pelican Guide to English Literature, edited by Boris Ford: This series comes in seven different volumes. The volumes are:

i. The Age of Chaucer
ii. The Age of Shakespeare
iii. From Donne to Marvel
iv. From Dryden to Johnson
v. From Blake to Byron
vi. From Dickens to Hardy
vii. The Modern Age

The book, in fact, is in the form of various essays compiled and edited by Boris Ford, a noted critic who was born in British India. Recommended to me by Dr. Swarna Prabhat, head, Department of English at Nalanda College, I recommend this series to all the students who want scholarly material on different ages of English literature.

8. A Short History of English Literature by Ifor Evans: Benjamin Ifor Evans was rather a cryptic literary historian who perhaps loved to talk in a much sophisticated language full of his personal opinions. He has divided his book into sections – poetry, drama, novel and prose. He does not only give you an account of what happened in the ‘making of history of English literature’ but also gives you his opinion on what might have instigated ‘what actually happened’. For example, I will quote Lord Ifor Evan’s words from page number 96:
“Tennyson and Browning were to restore to poetry something of a higher function, though Tennyson was charged with sometimes having one eye on the audience and, after he was made Laureate, with having both eyes on the Queen.”

Whatever! I will still recommend this book to the students and their teachers as well. Ifor Evans was a scholar and also decorated one of the most reputed posts in the higher education. His work is worth reading and very useful too.

Get the literature book by Sir Ifor Evans from Amazon on possible discounts! Click the Amazon link below:

Ifor Evans History of English Literature on Amazon

So, friends, this is my list of good books on the history of English literature that I will recommend to everyone. However, I have surely left out some books which others might think being useful and informative too. Indeed, there might be many others! Nevertheless, out of almost twenty different books on English literature history that I have in my library, I have decided to enlist some and exclude some. Readers may give their opinions on my list and suggest what might be included and what might be excluded! Thank you for your time!


Also read by Alok:




NET Preparation Help – English Literature 

Alok Mishra

First and foremost a poet, Alok Mishra is an author next. Apart from these credentials, he is founder & Editor-in-Chief of Ashvamegh, an international literary magazine and also the founder of BookBoys PR, a company which helps writers brand themselves and promote their books. On this blog, Alok mostly writes about literary topics which are helpful for literature students and their teachers. He also shares his poems; personal thoughts and book reviews.

This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. Can’t find The New Pelican Guide to English Literature ( whole set of 11 books) anywhere. Please help. Thanks and regards.

    1. Hi, Sansy! I found them on the College Street book markets in Kolkata. See if you can find the collection there. Otherwise, getting the new copies might be a tough task! All the best!

  2. Respected Sir,
    I would like to request you to please recommend me some books on History of English Literature which will have the most elaborated and a very excellent writing and also it will be great if you recommend me some books on world literature..I am going to take admission in B.A. in English in 2020. I will be obliged if you kindly help me.

  3. Sir….I m pursuing my MA English from IGNOU.
    And I have chosen Indian Literature in 2nd year.
    Can u suggest from which book I should start.
    During my BA course I had opted European literature…,but now I m changing as I m more interested in knowing Indian literature in English.
    I will be Grateful for your help and guidance…

    1. Dear Rambabu, ap achhi achhi kitaben le sakte hain. Cazamian ki le sakte hain ya fir David Daiches ki kitab le sakte hain.

  4. Please help me sir……. I confused very much to what to study for entrance. I want to clear my doubts by your ans….. So please consider my comment sir.

  5. Thank you sir, ur article is very helpful…….
    I want to crash out jnu \du entrances….. Pls give me a syllabus for that and also pls suggest me a correct books which gave a broad view of the topics that reffered in the syllabus

    1. Please help me sir……. I confused very much to what to study for entrance. I want to clear my doubts by your ans….. So please consider my comment sir.

  6. Hello sir I need your help…. My project topic.. The rise of periodical essays..mujhe apki help chahiye

    1. Thanks for writing, sir! I will do my best to help you. I need more information about your topic and some specific points.

      1. Thank you sir, ur article is very helpful…….
        I want to crash out jnu \du entrances….. Pls give me a syllabus for that and also pls suggest me a correct books which gave a broad view of the topics that reffered in the syllabus

  7. Thanks a lot for this list, Alok! I am neither a student nor a professor, I am just interested in reading the history because it is fascinating and also because I want to read classics from the beginning to the modern period.

      1. Tq for ur information sir……. I want to crash out jnu entrance, is edward albert book is enough to understand history of english literature sir

        1. If you are serious about JNU entrance, you MUST be getting a few other books – David Daiches’ history of English literature and also the one by Legouis and Cazamian. These two books will help you in reaching your goals.

          1. I want to clear central university exams like jnu\du….. Please can you suggest a best books to study history of english literature &social history of England &criticism and also please give me a syllabus for those exams

    1. Aap David Daiches ki book le lijiye. Basic and useful information hain usme. Bahut help hoga. Uske alawe ap Palgrave ki bhi book le len usse bhi help hoga.

      1. Sir I have recently completed my p.g in English literature. I want to qualify NET which books should I go through. Please suggest most useful ones

    2. Tq for ur information sir……. I want to crash out jnu entrance, please can u suggest a best book for history of English literature and social history of England

  8. Dear Sir,
    I want to crack the DU entrance test. Kindly suggest me some good books for studying the history of Commonwealth and Indian English Literature.

  9. Sir I am a student who had and have a strong desire to be continued his studies in English honors …….please help me….. To know me about the subject……

  10. One should read these books who want to give exam of Jed as per my thinking .
    Literary terms m.h. Abrahams
    Balasubramanium (phonetics )
    Kapil kapoor ( Indian poetics )
    S.k. de ( Indian poetics )
    Norman Lewis ( English language )
    David daichies
    Robert Fletcher
    (For history )
    M.a.r. habib
    (For criticism )
    Peter Barry
    Lodge and wood
    Literary movements ( free download available)
    ( For literary movements and theories )
    Murphy ( for general English grammar )
    Arvind Krishna mehrotra ( concise history of Indian English writhing)
    And some great works of English literature

    1. It is nice to read books about history. It brings us the time back when our ancestors do things that we made an impact in our lives today. It helps us to remember what happened in the past and what are the changes that happened as a result of todays world. History plays a vital role in our lives, without it, we are not experiencing what we have today. Through it, we learned how to preserve and protect the things we value. We should not forget the past, but instead we need to remember it even just for a glimpse. grabmyessay review reddit

  11. Hello, inspired from your blog I want to ask you some book references. And its for discursive academic writing. Its contain 15 mark at 1st part English Hons. And I have no idea about the books that will be very usefull. Please do suggest me fast.

  12. Thank you so much Sir… your article is really very helpful. .. could you also suggest books for History of English language. … and I have History of English literature by Edward Albert …. is it enough ?

    1. Shweta,
      if you are looking to tackle subjective exams, then you must look for something written with vividity in perspectives and intellectual arguments. I will suggest you, then, the book by Legouis and Cazamian. Moreover, for the objective questions and some in-depth analysis, you can also combine your shelf with Daiches’ volumes.
      Wish you the best,

  13. Sir,
    I am student of B.A English literature & language.But I am unable to achieve any information about history of english literature book.Please suggest me.

    1. Dear Shibsundar,
      please buy the David Daiches combo pack and I hope you will be able to comprehend the history of English literature quite comfortably.

  14. hai sir,
    am student of BA English language and literature.but i can’t catch anything from history of English.please suggest me a quality book for history of english.

    1. Dear Hema,
      don’t panic. With time and proper study and good books, you can easily get a hold on literature. You should get the Combo pack of the two-volume set on the history of English Literature by David Daiches. It will surely solve your problems. All the best for your academic years! You can buy the book from Amazon link below:
      David Daiches Combo Pack: Amazon India

  15. Hello sir I am a student of university of science and technology Meghalaya MA 1sem can you give me some idea of how to prepare to making note on certain topic

  16. Sir,
    I just completed M.A with 59.5 %. My next goal is to crack NET. So, you are requested to suggest me some best quality books of History of English Literature. I have no financial problem, so u can freely suggest me best quality books to buy.
    Subir Mukherjee

  17. Sir, I am student of BA 1st year English honours.our syllabus is under University of Delhi.In first semester I have, British poetry and drama 14th to 17th century and 17th to 18th century.As I m Newcomer in English hns, lil bit difficult to understand which books are good for me.So please help me out.kindly tell the the good books on those topics.

    1. Hi Shreya,
      thanks for reading the article and I can understand you are just a fresher. For freshers, it becomes difficult if they don’t get the right books on their stands. You should take the David Daiches volume one and two and you are done! This will help you understanding literature out and out and will cover the syllabus that you have pointed out. You can buy the book from Amazon by following the link: A Critical History of English Literature (Combo – two volumes) by David Daiches

  18. hey sir !

    Am a student of English Literature in B.A. Final (Lucknow University)..

    I just bought a book on History of English Literature by Raghukul Tilak .. can you plz post about *Symbolism*, *Feminism* and such topics in long..

    because in that book every element or genre is too short to right down in examination for long question’s answer !!

    1. Hi Arjita,
      thanks for your info and the comment! I will surely try to write about the topics you have raised here. And you should get a different book asap because that would not suffice for your studies!

        1. Dear Krishan, it depends on the answer to your question by yourself. What kind of knowledge you are looking to gain – basic or in-depth? If you want to gain basic knowledge about history and evolution of English literature, yes, Edward Albert will be suitable. However, if you want to know these things in detail and understand the evolution and progress of English literature in-depth, please get Cazamian or Daiches or both.
          All the best!

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