The Handmaid's Tale Timeline

Year Historical Literary Author
1928 Universal suffrage for men and women
Minimum voting age for women in Britain reduced to twenty-one from thirty years
Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin (fully exploited from 1940)
First films with sound in Britain
Blunden's Undertones of War
Huxley's Point Counter Point
Isherwood's All the Conspirators
1929 General election returns minority Labour government; Margaret Bondfield becomes first woman Cabinet member
Wall Street Crash and start of international economic depression
Margaret Bondfield becomes first woman Cabinet member
Graves' Goodbye to All That
Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms
Priestley's The Good Companions
Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (film version, 1930)
1930 Jet engine invented
11th May: Amy Johnson becomes the first woman to complete a solo flight from England to Australia
The Great Depression
Nazis begin rise to power in Germany
Foundation of the Nation of Islam (black national separatist organisation)
Blunden's Collected Poems
Coward's Private Lives
Faulkner's As I Lay Dying
Maugham's Cakes and Ale
1931 Woolf's The Waves
1932 Hunger marches in Britain
British Union of Fascists formed
Huxley's Brave New World
Eliot's Sweeney Agonistes
1933 Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany Auden's The Dance of Death
Orwell's Down and Out in London and Paris
1934 British Union of Fascists addressed by Oswald Mosley
Adolf Hitler becomes Führer
John Masefield becomes Poet Laureate
James' The Art of the Novel
Pound's Make it New
Priestley's English Journey
1935 Radar & nylon invented
Italy invades Ethiopia
Launch of first Penguin paperbacks
1936 Death of George V
Accession, then abdication of Edward VIII
Spanish Civil war begins
Jarrow March of the unemployed
Accession of George VI
Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza
Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying
Thomas' 25 Poems
1937 British policy of appeasement towards Italy and Germany
Mass Observation Project starts
Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier
Priestley's Time and the Conway's
Woolf's The Years

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Harold Leslie Atwood, Margaret's elder brother, born
1938 Munich agreement with Hitler
Supreme Court rules Missouri must provide access to public schooling for blacks as well as whites
Waugh's Scoop
Day-Lewis' Overtures to a Death
Greene's Brighton Rock
1939 End of Spanish Civil War
Start of the Second World War
Evacuation of children from London
Thomas' Twenty-Six Poems
Eliot's The Family Reunion
Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin
Joyce's Finnegan's wake
Orwell's Coming up for Air
Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
Margaret Eleanor Atwood (known as Peggy) born in Ottawa
1940 Churchill becomes Prime Minister
Evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk
Start of the Blitz
Thomas' Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog
Greene's The Power and the Glory
1941 Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour
USA declares war on Germany and Italy
Coward's Blithe Spirit
Eliot's Little Gidding
1942 US involvement in Second World War
1944 D-Day Landings in Normandy
Butler Education Act
Eliot's Four Quartets
1945 Yalta Conference
Death of Hitler
USA drops nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrenders
End of Second World War
Clement Atlee becomes Labour Prime Minister
Mitford's The Pursuit of Love
Orwell's Animal Farm
Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
Priestley's An Inspector Calls
1947 Independence of India and Pakistan
The UK school leaving age is raised to 15
Princess Elizabeth – later Queen – marries the Duke of Edinburgh
Compton-Burnett's Manservant and Maidservant
The Diary of Anne Frank is published
The Maids, Jean Genet
All My Sons, Arthur Miller
A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams
1948 British Citizenship Act gives Commonwealth citizens subject status
Policy of apartheid started in South Africa
State of Israel founded
Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
Leavis' The Great Tradition
Atwood taken with friends to see film The Red Shoes
1949 Orwell's 1984
Miller's Death of a Salesman
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
1950 Korean War begins Greene's The Third Man
Lessing's The Grass is Singing
1951 Festival of Britain
Churchill becomes Conservative Prime Minister
Spies Burgess and Maclean defect to USSR
Larkin's Poems
Manning's School for Love
Ruth Kathleen, Margaret Atwood's younger sister, born
Margaret Atwood starts to attend school full-time (previously, her summers had been spent in Canadian backwoods with parents: father was entomologist and zoologist)
1952 George VI dies
Accession of Elizabeth II
Britain produces an atomic bomb
Christie's The Mousetrap
Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea
Thomas' Collected Poems
Atwood attends Leaside High School
1953 Death of Stalin
Coronation of Elizabeth II
Ascent of Everest
Hartley's The Go-Between
Fleming's Casino Royale
Miller's The Crucible
1954 End of post-war food rationing
US Supreme Court declares racially segregated education is unconstitutional
Amis' Lucky Jim
Rattigan's Separate Tables
Golding's Lord of the Flies
Thomas' Under Milk Wood
1955 Rosa Parks, Civil Rights activist in USA, refuses to give up her seat on a bus Beckett's Waiting for Godot
1956 Suez Crisis
Russian invasion of Hungary
Rosa Parks defies bus segregation in Montgomery Alabama
Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Osborne's Look Back in Anger
Wilson's Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
Beckett, Waiting for Godot
1957 Wolfenden Report on Prostitution and Homosexuality
Independence of Ghana
Obscene Publications Act
Martin Luther King elected President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 
Larkin's A Girl in Winter
Hughes' The Hawk in the Rain
Murdoch's The Sandcastle
MacInnes' City of Spades
Naipaul's The Mystic Masseur
Osborne's The Entertainer
Atwood goes to Victoria College, University of Toronto, where she is taught by Northrop Frye
1958 Notting Hill race riots
Aden state of emergency
CND founded
Achebe's Things Fall Apart
Pinter's The Birthday Party
Delaney's A Taste of Honey
Bates' The Darling Buds of May
Murdoch's The Bell
Silitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Betjeman's Collected Poems
1959 First section of M1 motorway opened
State of emergency in Kenya
Wesker's Roots
Lee's Cider with Rosie
Braithwaite's To Sir with Love
Waterhouse's Billy Liar
Arden's Serjeant Musgrave's Dance
Silitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansbury
1960 John F. Kennedy wins US election
CND demonstrations in Trafalgar Square
Penguin wins the right to publish D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover
Banks' The L Shaped Room
Lessing's In Pursuit of the English
Pinter's The Caretaker
Barstow's A Kind of Loving
Plath's The Colossus
1961 Commonwealth Immigrants Act restricts right to settle in UK
Structure of DNA discovered
Building of Berlin Wall
Osborne's Luther
Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy
Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas
Atwood graduates with B.A. in English Literature (Honours)
Atwood starts graduate course at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Boston, USA). [Radcliffe became part of Harvard by 1963]
1962 End of national military service
Jamaica, Trinidad and Uganda become independent from UK
Burgess' A Clockwork Orange
Al Alvarez (ed), The New Poetry
Carson's Silent Spring
Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1963 US President John F. Kennedy assassinated
Kenya becomes independent
Martin Luther King makes his 'I have a dream' speech
1960-1963 Wilson Harris publishes The Guyana Quartet
Plath's The Bell Jar
Theatre Workshop, Oh! What a Lovely War
Dunn's Up the Junction
In summer, Atwood returns to Toronto. Takes job with marketing company
Atwood engaged to James (Jay) Ford
1964 Beatles become popular
Labour PM, Harold Wilson
Harlem race riots in USA
Martin Luther King awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Nelson Mandela sentenced to life in prison
US Congress passes the Civil Rights Act banning segregation
Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane
Larkin's The Whitsun Weddings
Engagement to Jay Ford broken off.
Atwood writing novel The Edible Woman
Takes post as lecturer at University of British Columbia, in Vancouver
1965 Vietnam war escalates
Abolition of the death penalty (UK)
Rhodesia declares independence from UK
Race riots across America
Osborne's A Patriot for Me
Pinter's The Homecoming
Plath's Ariel
Bond's Saved
Manning's The Balkan Trilogy
Atwood travels back from Vancouver to Toronto with her friend Jim Polk
In Autumn, Atwood goes back to Harvard
1966 England wins the World Cup
Guyana becomes independent from UK
Television drama Cathy Come Home highlights homelessness in UK
In China, Mao Zedong launches his Cultural Revolution
Orton's Loot
Fowles' The Magus
Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Jubilee, Margaret Walker

The Concubine, Elechi Amadi
Publication of selection of Atwood's poems as The Circle Game
1967 Legalisation of abortion (UK)
Homosexuality decriminalized (UK)
First heart transplant
Gough, Patten, Henri, The Mersey Sound
Carter's The Magic Toyshop
Dunn's Poor Cow
Atwood wins prestigious Governor General's Literary Award for The Circle Game
In June, marries Jim Polk. They move to Montreal, where Atwood takes up faculty post at Sir George Williams University
1968 National Front formed (UK)
Race Relations Bill declares race discrimination illegal in the UK
Student uprising in Paris
Martin Luther King assassinated
USA passes Civil Rights Bill
Enoch Powell makes 'Rivers of Blood' speech in Birmingham
National Front formed (UK)
Hines' A Kestrel for a Knave
Bond's Early Morning
End of theatre censorship in Britain
When Rain Clouds Gather, Bessie Head
Atwood and Polk move to Edmonton, Alberta, where Polk has University post
1969 'Winter of Discontent'
Americans land on the moon
Start of Northern Ireland ‘troubles’
Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Greene, Travels with my Aunt

Atwood takes up teaching post at University of Alberta
Formation of Women’s Liberation Movement in UK

Equal Pay Act, UK
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

Ted Hughes, Crow
Atwood and Polk leave Alberta to live in England for several months. Atwood writing Surfacing
1971 Decimalisation of UK currency
Anti Vietnam war demonstrations
Bond's Lear They move back to Toronto. Atwood takes post as Assistant Professor at York University, Toronto, lecturing on Canadian Women Writers
Atwood getting to know writer Graeme Gibson
1972 Terrorist attack at Munich Olympic Games
Equal Opportunity Act extends 'affirmative action' to colleges and universities in USA
Drabble, The Needle’s Eye

Stoppard, Jumpers
Atwood publishes Survival - A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
1973 Abortion legalised in USA
USA pulls out of Vietnam
Britain enters EEC
Alan Ayckbourn, The Norman Conquests
Sula, Toni Morrison

Martin Amis, The Rachel Papers

Greene, The Honorary Consul
Polk and Atwood decide to separate; they are divorced
In Autumn, Atwood and Gibson move to a farm on Alliston, north of Toronto
1974 President Richard Nixon resigns
Larkin, High Windows

Murdoch, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine

Atwood writing Lady Oracle
1975 End of Vietnam war
Sex Discrimination Bill (UK)
North Sea oil comes on line
Griffiths' Comedians
Bradbury's The History Man
Jhabvala's Heat and Dust
Scott's The Raj Quartet
Lodge's Changing Places
Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time
Atwood and Gibson working on the farm
1976 Notting Hill (race) riots
Advent of punk rock
UK Race Relations Act strengthens anti-discrimination laws
Edgar's Destiny Atwood's Lady Oracle published
Atwood gives birth to baby Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson (Jess)
1977 Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee is celebrated
Strikes by firefighters and riots against Far Right groups take place across the UK
Public Works Employment Act - 10% of contractors to be from minorities

First Virago Press publication

First recognised AIDS death, New York
Dennis Potter, Brimstone and Treacle
 Our Sister Killjoy, Ama Aidoo
Stoppard, Professional Foul
Atwood travels to Venice and England
1978 The first 'test tube' baby Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea
Weldon's Praxis
McEwan's The Cement Garden
Hare's Plenty
Atwood, Gibson and Jess travel for six weeks on world tour, via Paris to Tehran and Afghanistan and on to India and Australia
1979 Conservative party wins General Election (first female British Prime Minister)
'Winter of Discontent'
Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran flees Iran with his family
Churchill's Cloud Nine
Naipaul's A Bend in the River
Atwood publishes Life Before Man
Gibson very ill with perforated ulcer
1980 Start of civil war in El Salvador
Mount St Helens volcano erupts in Washington State, USA
AIDS epidemic starts to spread
Move back to Toronto, where Jess starts school
Gibson spends summer alone in Skye, Scotland, writing book
In November, Atwood and Gibson rent house in Caribbean
1981 Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana
Riots in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester
Reverend Sun Myung Moon marries 2075 couples in mass wedding in Madison Square Garden

Falklands War

Women’s anti-nuclear Greenham Common protests

First CD players
Rushdie's Midnight's Children
The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor

Churchill, Top Girls
1982 Reverend Sun Myung Moon marries 2075 couples in mass wedding in Madison Square Garden Atwood on publicity tour of England and Scandinavia
1983 US cruise missiles stationed in UK
Swift, Waterland

Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

Atwood, Gibson and Jess, together with Atwood's parents, visit Galapagos Islands
Atwood, Gibson and Jess go to live in Norfolk, England, for six months
Atwood's father, Carl, has a stroke
1984 Miner's Strike (UK)
IRA attempt to assassinate PM Margaret Thatcher
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, is assassinated by her bodyguards
Ted Hughes becomes Poet Laureate
Carter's Nights at the Circus
Amis' Money
Ballard's Empire of the Sun
Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot
Family go to West Berlin for six months. Atwood starts writing The Handmaid's Tale
They move to Copenhagen then back to Toronto, where Atwood finishes The Handmaid's Tale
1985 Live Aid concerts for Ethiopian famine relief
Ackroyd, Hawksmoor

Brenton & Hare, Pravda

Winterson, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit 

Publication of The Handmaid's Tale
1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine The Handmaid's Tale shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Atwood and Gibson fly to London for the award ceremony (though the novel does not win the prize, which goes to Kingsley Amis for The Old Devils)
Atwood is President of PEN, a pressure group to free writers who are political prisoners
1987 Conservatives win General Election
Race riots (UK)
The Great Storm devastates southern UK
IRA bomb, Enniskillen
Stock market crash
Morrison's Beloved
Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
Ian McEwan, The Child in Time
Beloved, Toni Morrison

Ackroyd, Chatterton

Churchill, Serious Money
Atwood is writer-in-residence at University in Sydney, Australia
Atwood planning Cat's Eye
1988 Death threats against Salman Rushdie
PanAm flight 103 destroyed by bomb over Lockerbie
Rushdie's Satanic Verses
Hawking's A Brief History of Time
Cat's Eye published in Canada
Filming of The Handmaid's Tale
Revolutions in Eastern Europe lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall 

Exxon Valdez oil tanker spills millions of gallons of oil off Alaskan coast
Protesting students massacred in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day
Gwendolen, Buchi Emechera

Winterson, Sexing the Cherry 
Cat's Eye published in Britain and America
Premiere in Berlin of film of The Handmaid's Tale
1990 Nelson Mandela freed from imprisonment in South Africa
Germany re-unified
Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia
Byatt's Possession
1991 Collapse of Soviet Union
South Africa repeals apartheid laws
Atwood gives four lectures at Clarendon College, Oxford, on Canadian culture
Atwood and Gibson in France. Atwood begins writing The Robber Bride
Jazz, Toni Morrison

Hornby, Fever Pitch
1993 Murder of Stephen Lawrence
Nelson Mandela becomes President of South Africa

UK National Lottery starts

First female Anglican priests ordained
D'Aguiar's British Subjects Atwood's father, Carl Atwood, dies
Publication of The Robber Bride
1994 Nelson Mandela elected President of South Africa Atwood undertakes promotional tour in France and Scandinavia
1996 Islamist fundamentalist group, the Taliban, takes power in Afghanistan Atwood publishes Alias Grace
1997 Hong Kong returned by Britain to Chinese rule
1998  Hughes, Birthday Letters
Motion, Selected Poems 1976-97
2000 Millennium celebrations 
Ishiguro, When we were Orphans
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Atwood publishes The Blind Assassin, which wins the Booker prize
She gives the William Empson lectures in Cambridge, England
2001 September 11th - destruction of World Trade Center towers in New York by terrorists flying planes into them McEwan's Atonement
2002 Atwood's Empson lectures published as Negotiating with the Dead
2003 Invasion of Iraq by USA and Britain Opera based on The Handmaid's Tale has English premiere at the Coliseum, London
Atwood publishes dystopian novel Oryx and Crake
Exploration of Mars by space probe

Devastating Tsunami around Indian Ocean
Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty

Alan Bennett, The History Boys


Seamus Heaney, Beacons of Bealtaine
2006 Margaret Atwood, Moral Disorder
Brian Friel, Faith Healer
2007 Bovine foot and mouth epidemic
Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister
Widespread flooding
First Kindle e-reader
Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach
2008 Toni Morrison, A Mercy
Death of Harold Pinter 
2009 First female Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Dufy  Publication of Atwood's dystopian novel The Year of the Flood, which has some of the same characters as Oryx and Crake
Atwood undertakes an international tour to promote her new novel The Year of the Flood
Atwood celebrates her 70th birthday with a gala dinner in Ontario
2010 General Election in Britain results in coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats
Ian McEwan, Solar
Atwood visits Israel and accepts prestigious literary award (the Dan David Prize), saying that she doesn't 'do cultural boycotts'
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