Harry Potter Timeline

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The life and times of Harry Potter and his creator

by Shmuel Ross
1965 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000–present
1965 J K Rowling

July 31:

Joanne Rowling is born to Peter and Ann Rowling in the British town of Chipping Sodbury. She has no middle initial.

(Much later, Rowling decides that July 31st is also Harry Potter's birthday.)


While stuck on a delayed train between Manchester and London, Rowling gets the idea for Harry Potter. She begins writing his story that night.


December 30:

After a 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis, Rowling's mother dies. This later affects the tone of the Potter books: "Harry's feelings about his dead parents had become much deeper, much more real."


October 16:

Rowling—now teaching English as a second language in Portugal—marries TV journalist Jorge Arantes.


July 27:

Rowling and Arantes have a daughter, Jessica Rowling Arantes.


Late November:

Now separated from her husband (they divorce in 1995), Rowling moves near her younger sister, Di, in Edinburgh, Scotland. She takes along her daughter and her ever-growing book manuscript.


Writing whenever she can, often in cafés, Rowling finishes her first book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Her literary agent warns her "You do realize, you will never make a fortune out of writing children's books?"


Several publishers reject the book, finding it to be too long and slow for children.


British publisher Bloomsbury Press accepts the book, giving Rowling a $4,000 advance.



Scholastic Books wins an auction for the U.S. rights to the series, giving Rowling an advance over $100,000, a record for a foreign children's book. She is able to quit her teaching job and devote her time to writing.

June 26:

The first book in the series—Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone—is published in the United Kingdom. The first print run is 500 copies. Because Bloomsbury is afraid that young boys won't want to read a book by a woman, they suggest she use her initials. Joanne adds her grandmother's name, Kathleen, to her own, producing "J.K. Rowling."

The book is an instant success, selling well and winning several awards.


July 2:

The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is published in the United Kingdom, with a first print run of over 10,000 copies.

September 1:

Harry Potter Book 1

Scholastic publishes the first book, renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in the United States. The changes go beyond the title: illustrations are added to the start of each chapter, and British spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary are translated into American English. The first print run is 50,000 copies.


June 2:

Harry Potter Book 2Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is published in the United States, with an initial printing of 250,000 copies. The U.S. release had been scheduled for September, but Scholastic discovered that impatient fans of the first book were ordering copies of the sequel from the U.K. At 341 pages, this is only slightly longer than the 309-page first book. It shoots to the top of bestseller lists.

July 8:

The third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is published in the United Kingdom. It sells more than 68,000 copies in the first two days.

September 8:

Harry Potter Book 3 The third book is published in the United States, again ahead of schedule, with a first printing of 500,000 copies. This one is 448 pages. The Harry Potter books hold the top three positions on the New York Times bestseller list.


Nancy Stouffer, author of the 1984 book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, has been publicly claiming that Rowling stole ideas from her. In Stouffer's book, muggles are little people who care for orphans; the book also includes a character named Larry Potter. Scholastic and Warner Bros. (who have the film rights to the series) sue her, wanting a judge to rule that there was no violation of Stouffer's copyright or trademark.


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