This book offers a new approach to the history of English. Contemporary linguistic research in various areas - ranging from discourse analysis and stylistics to literacy and the study of pidgins and creoles - raises new historical questions. Access to large corpora of English has in recent years enabled scholars to assess the minutiae of linguistic change in much greater detail than before, and consequently the timing and interpretation of events is having to be reconsidered. Furthermore, the focus of interest in a history of the language is rather different in the 1990s than it was a decade and more ago, and this book reflects this shift. The author does not make a direct attempt to chronicle changes in syntax or pronunciation and spelling, but the book is designed to complement a corpus-based study of formal changes. It also traces change in the language on a broader front and in its social and cultural context. The story of English is brought up to the late 1990s to include, amongst other things, discussions of Estuary English and the implications of the information superhighway.