J.K. Rowling created an extensive universe for the Harry Potter world, including a pretty comprehensive history. Although sometimes when reading the books and watching the movies, it’s easy to forget the history spanning behind it (although the prequel movies have helped!); there’s a lot to unpack. There's so much that has shaped the world we see today, the one that Harry exists in.
If you’re ever stuck on what happened when and everything that’s led up to the current events, you can refer to this list and see what went on in the past. It’s not exhaustive, of course, but it’s everything you need to know.
9 The Founding Of Hogwarts (~1000)
The exact dates of Hogwarts’ founding are unknown, though it’s said to have been around a thousand years ago which would leave us guessing that it was founded around 1000 AD. Four very intelligent witches and wizards came together to create the school: Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin.
It was these witches and wizards who created the four houses and all of the secrets the school holds in the present day. Of course, their peaceful ruling over the school didn’t last too long. Salazar Slytherin left over an argument involving which students were allowed to attend the school, and the creature he left behind would live for centuries to wreak havoc in the halls.
8 The Creation Of The Deathly Hallows (1200s)
According to legend, the Deathly Hallows were three items gifted to the Peverell brothers Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus by Death himself. The more likely scenario is that these three items were invented by the very clever brothers.
Whatever their origin, they came into existence around the 1200s, approximately 2,000 years after Hogwarts was built and opened as a school. They immediately caused a trail of destruction wherever they went (except perhaps the cloak) but, much like Salazar Slytherin’s basilisk, would survive for centuries to come. We know that, though; they do, of course, play a very big part in the modern-day Wizarding World when Harry is trying to defeat Lord Voldemort.
7 The Old Wizarding World (1300-1900)
Not much is known about the pretty ancient times of the Wizarding World leading up to the 20th century except that Muggles and wizards were very much at odds. Muggles feared wizards and would often turn against them, distrusting their magic. The statue of secrecy was signed by the Ministry of Magic in Britain during this time, to withdraw from the prying eyes of the Muggles and protect the lives of witches and wizards.
In turn, this also created a lot of prejudice. Witches and wizards began to hate Muggles for discriminating against them so harshly.
6 The Rise Of Grindelwald (1920-1945)
A European wizard named Gellert Grindelwald launched a very harsh political campaign based on the premise that magic is better than having no magic, and that those who are witches and wizards are inherently superior to those without any magical blood. He was joined by Albus Dumbledore, another very powerful wizard, but eventually, his views grew too extreme for Dumbledore.
His recruitment and dark unofficial reign over the European Wizarding World lasted until 1945, when a famous duel took place and Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald, destroying the main source of prejudice towards Muggles and hoping to restore peace to the Wizarding World.
5 The Rise Of Lord Voldemort (1945-1980)
The same year that Grindelwald was defeated, a student named Tom Riddle finished his education at Hogwarts and disappeared briefly to Albania after being rejected for a job there. When he returned, he kept his head down for a time but eventually began his own campaign against those of non-magical blood. He styled a new name for himself, a new identity entirely, and began to recruit people into his inner circle, with his eventual goal essentially being genocide.
People began to fear even his name and by the 1970s, it seemed as if Grindelwald had been nothing compared to this man’s agenda and prejudice. Dumbledore formed a secret society named the Order Of The Phoenix to fight against him.
4 The End Of The Wizarding War (October 31, 1980)
A prophecy was made that named Lily and James Potter’s baby son Harry as being the only one who might defeat Lord Voldemort. Being informed of this prophecy, Voldemort came after Harry and managed to find the Potters on the Halloween of 1980. He murdered James and Lily and turned his wand on Harry.
As Lily had died to protect him, he was cloaked in protective magic and Voldemort’s killing curse rebounded. The creation of his Horcruxes protected him from death, but just barely, and he was forced to flee back to Albania where he hid in the hopes of being sought out by his followers and restored back to health.
3 The Peaceful Years (1980-1995)
The following years were relatively peaceful in the Wizarding World. Prejudice and unrest still existed, but it was nothing compared to that which had existed when Grindelwald and Voldemort had ruled over the Wizarding World, however unofficially.
Voldemort made a series of attempts to return by drinking unicorn blood and one of his Death Eater’s restoring his memory through a Horcrux, but each of them was thwarted by Harry. Even as a child, Harry knew that Voldemort could not be allowed to return and ensured he didn’t.
There was an underlying tension in the world though, under the knowledge that it seemed Voldemort could not be killed (as no one yet knew about his Horcruxes, and had no idea how to go about ending his existence entirely).
2 Lord Voldemort’s Return And The Next War (1995-1998)
Using the bone of his father, flesh of his servant, and blood of his enemy, Lord Voldemort finally returned in mid-1995 when he managed to restore his body and end the protective magic over Harry that protected him.
He made an attempt to kill Harry, which would have secured his new reign, but failed. Many attempts were made on Harry’s life which failed again and, in 1997, he managed to take over the Ministry Of Magic by placing one of his followers at the head of it. Harry and anyone associated with him was forced to flee and go on the run as he attempted to hunt down each of the Horcruxes he had recently found out about.
1 All Was Well (1998 Onwards)
In 1998, Harry and his friends managed to finish destroying each Horcrux and Harry and Voldemort faced off during a final battle that took place in Hogwarts. Although many lives were sadly lost, Harry managed to kill Voldemort, and after what was sure to be a traumatic aftermath and recovery, people were able to settle back into their normal lives.
From 1998 onwards, the Wizarding World may not have been perfect, but there were no wars and people managed to live relatively peacefully. Harry’s best friend, Hermione Granger, eventually took over as Minister For Magic and the Ministry’s security was revolutionized.