The Absolute 21 Most Influential And Greatest Writers In History

Throughout our history writers have inspired greatness and influenced the development of society, nations, religions, governments, and our overall human history.

This article outlines the absolute 21 most influential writers of all time. Each of the following great men and women have written books, pamphlets, essays, and letters that have altered entire societies and even defined historic ages.

Each of the following authors have been judged by a list of 3 grading criteria. I outline this grading criteria below.

The 3 Grading Criteria For Writers To Be On This List

Each of the following writers have impacted billions of people worldwide and forever altered the course of history. In order to have landed on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers of history each of the following writers would have to match 3 criteria.

  • The writer needs to have influenced billions of people worldwide
  • Modern scholarship still studies their influence and routinely publishes academic articles on the continuing greatness of their works
  • The works of the following writers need to have had a direct impact upon the development of their society and history.

Further, I have purposely omitted religious prophets as their impact upon history is hard to quantify accurately. The following list of 21 writers were either poets, novel writers, historians, philosophers, or literary authors.

List Of The Absolute 21 Most Influential And Greatest Writers In History

For those who wish to simply see the list I have provided a brief list below.

  • Homer
  • Virgil
  • Dante
  • Geoffrey Chaucer
  • William Shakespeare
  • Voltaire
  • Cicero
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Miguel de Cervantes
  • Karl Marx
  • J.K.R Tolkien
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Mark Twain
  • Jane Austen
  • George Orwell
  • Gabriel Garcia Marques
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Charles Dickens
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Plato
  • Seneca

Below each of the following authors I give an outline of why they are considered to be one of the absolute top 21 greatest and most influential writers in history. There is a section for further reading where you can read more about an individual writer if you would like more information.

Without further ado, here are the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers of history.

Homer

Born8th century BC
Died8th century BC
Famous Quote“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is the man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”
Known ForEpic poet who is considered the founding father of poetry, author of Iliad and Odyssey.
Region of World8th century BC, Greece
Further ReadingThe 3 Ways Homer Influenced Modern Society

One of the greatest and most influential writers in history is undoubtedly the 8th century Greek poet Homer.

We know very little about Homer himself. We know that he was a Greek poet that is credited with being the first person to write down the Greek epic poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey. We have primary source evidence that he might have been a blind wandering bard who gathered stories across Greece.

However, there are 3 reasons that Homer ends up on this list of the absolute 25 most influential writers of history. First, Homer established oration as a key facet of western society. Second, Homer created the foundational epic texts. Third, Homer is credited with creating the modern western poetry style of dactylic hexameter.

Each of these 3 reasons have led to the modern society that you and I interact with today. All subsequent writers and authors interact with Homer’s influence.

(I go into full detail on each of these 3 reasons why Homer is considered one of the greatest and most influential writers in history in this article here.)

Simply put, Homer began a process of creating modern western literature way back in the 8th century BC. This western literature helped to create a shared societal identity that all people in the world today have been influenced by.

Virgil

Born15th of October, 70 BC
Died21st of September, 19 BC
Famous Quote“Fortune sides with him who dares.”
Known ForCreating Rome’s national novel The Aeneid and several other foundational Latin novels
Region of WorldItaly, Rome, 1st Century BC
Further ReadingVirgil: The 3 Ways His Aeneid Glorifies The Roman People and Augustus: 3 Greatest Accomplishments of Rome’s First Emperor

Of all the Golden-Era Latin poets none are greater or more influential than Virgil. Today billions of people around the world have been influenced by his iconic writing which helped to solidify the authority of the early Roman Empire.

Virgil lived during a time of transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The people of Rome traded the power of the Republican Senate for the power of the first Roman Emperor Augustus.

Virgil had to create a national novel that would help to cement the legitimacy of the Roman Empire. Drawing inspiration for Homer’s Odyssey Virgil would create the foundational national epic the Aeneid.

However, it was not the Aeneid itself which made Virgil one of the greatest and most influential writers of history. It was his ability to both critique the Augustan regime while also glorifying the Roman People that forever cemented Virgil’s legacy and reason for being on this list.

Virgil created one of the world’s best examples of a societal critique in the form of an epic poem. What we see in the Aeneid is a primitive version of Virgil demonstrating the legitimacy of a government cemented in the happiness and security of its citizens.

The Aeneid remains today one of the world’s best selling books. Even though Virgil would not live to see the Aeneid published, his impact can be felt across the western world. Today very few of our modern institutions can’t be traced back to the Roman Empire, which Virgil helped to create.

As such, Virgil easily lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Dante

Born1265
Died14th of September, 1321
Famous Quote“My course is set for an uncharted sea.”
Known ForWriting first modern book, establishing Italian written language, paving the way for the Italian Renaissance
Region of WorldItaly, 14th century
Further ReadingDante: The 3 Ways He Influenced Modern Italian History

One of the greatest and most influential writers in history is Dante Alighieri, or simply known today as Dante.

Although Dante could be considered a religious writer it is the way he published his books that is the reason for him being on this list.

Dante was educated in the 14th century Italian church. He would spend hours studying and writing in Latin. He would notice that only the clergy and a select few of society would read his work.

Instead of writing his popular books such as the Divine Comedy in Latin, Dante would combine several Italian languages into one and write in a new common Italian language.

This allowed Dante’s work to be spread throughout the Italian common people and eventually across Europe. This would result in the 3 lasting influences of Dante, and the reason why he is studied today.

First, by Dante publishing his works in common Italian he made a stance against the church. During his life he was exiled from Florence and in death he would be attacked by the European Catholic church during the reformation.

Second, by publishing in the common Latin Dante began a unification process across Italy and Europe. People began to communicate ideals and iconography shared in Dante’s Divine Comedy. This helped to create national communities that spread across Europe, which lead to modern nation states.

Third, In writing his works and defending his use of common Italian Dante started a revival of ancient sources such as Cicero. This directly led to what we now call the Italian Renaissance from which forever changed history.

As such, Dante lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history for his work on group formation. Today his influence impacts billions of people worldwide.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Born1340’s AD
Died25th of October, 1400
Famous Quote“Time and tide wait for no man.”
Known ForCreating the modern English language, writing The Canterbury Tales, establishing the modern Valentines Day
Region of WorldEngland, 14th century
Further ReadingGeoffrey Chaucer: The 3 Ways He Impacted The World

One of the greatest and most influential writers of all time is Geoffrey Chaucer.

Chaucer lived during a tumultuous time period in England. During his lifetime he would see the end of the Bubonic Plague in London as well as the Peasants Revolt. Both of these events drastically changed his perception of English society.

From this Chaucer would write several books that seek to entertain and inform audiences across England. Much like Dante, he wrote these works not in Latin but in a common English language.

However, the problem was that no such common English language existed for Chaucer to use in his writings. Instead of giving up on his books he instead created the world’s first common English language.

Today academics estimate that there are over 2,000 common English words created by Geoffrey Chaucer. As such his works have impacted nearly all of the current 1.5 billion English speaking people around the world.

However, Chaucer’s greatness and influence does not stop there. Chaucer would create one of the most important pieces of western literature called The Canterbury Tales. This book was written during the time of the Peasants Revolt where the common people of England sought to have societal reform and stop the practice of serfdom.

On the surface level The Canterbury Tales is a simple piece of literature that only entertains. However, when one takes a closer look the true reason for Chaucer’s writings surfaces.

Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a witty satire on the nature of English society. It positions the entirety of his current English society as inherently backwards and full of strife.

Chaucer gives us one of the world’s finest examples of societal criticism in the form of literary text. As a result of Chaucer’s book English history would forever be changed. As such, he remains one of the greatest and most influential writers in history.

William Shakespeare

BornBaptized 26th of April, 1564
Died23rd of April, 1616
Famous Quote“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste death but once.”
Known ForChanging western literature, reviving age of performance plays, and the world’s best selling playwright
Region of WorldEngland, 16th century.
Further ReadingWilliam Shakespeare: The 3 Things That Made Him A Good Writer

To nobody’s surprise William Shakespeare lands on the list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Shakespeare’s greatest influence upon the development of history is his mixture of ancient iambic pentameter with his then modern philosophy of natural law to create world class narratives.

Not much is known about Shakespeare himself. He left no autobiography that has survived and it’s doubtful that he wrote all of his own works. However one thing remains certain and that is his influence.

Shakespeare was likely educated to read the ancient Latin writers of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Livy. These ancient Latin writers wrote to have their work spoken aloud as well as read. As such the work flows off the page and into the ears of the audience.

Shakespeare would copy this technique of writing while also improving upon it. Before Shakespeare’s time most plays and books were written for the nobility or literate people of England. Shakespeare would write his work to appeal towards the common English man as well as the nobility.

This was groundbreaking for its time and remains one of the primary reasons why Shakespeare is researched today. By critically reading his work we can peer into how English society was structured and run during the 16th and 17th centuries.

It should come to nobody’s surprise that Shakespeare has landed on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Voltaire

Born1694, Paris, France
Died1778, Paris, France
Famous QuoteThe mirror is a worthless invention. The only way to truly see yourself is in the reflection of someone else’s eyes.
Reason For FameProlific writer in support of democratic principles who pushed the west towards democracy.
Area Of InfluenceFrance, England, North America
Further ReadingVoltaire: The 3 Ways He Changed The World

One of the greatest and most influential writers of history is Voltaire. So influential was Voltaire that the 18th century in Europe is often called the Age of Voltaire.

Voltaire was not only a great writer but a prolific one as well. Over the course of his life he would write over 20,000 letters, 2,000 books, and a significant portion of literature coming out of Western Europe during the 18th century.

However, Voltaire has impacted the development of human history in 3 distinct ways. First, Voltaire advocated for the concept of the freedom of speech. Second, Voltaire believed firmly in the separation of church and state. Third, Voltaire spent his helping to shift the western world’s style of government from authoritarian monarchies towards democratic republics.

Few people today truly understand how important Voltaire was to the creation of the modern systems of government we have today. He would be jailed for his letters by the King of France, after which he would spend time in England writing one of his most influential pamphlets that helped to start the French and American revolution (Letters on The English).

As a result of this Voltaire remains one of the most influential and greatest writers in history.

Cicero

BornJanuary 3rd, 106 BC
DiedDecember 7th, 43 BC
Famous Quote“In times of war, the law falls silent.”-Pro Milone
Reason For FamePioneered natural law, liberty, free market, and the three branch system of government.
Area Of InfluenceEurope, Rome, North America
Further ReadingThe 3 Ways Cicero Influenced The Development of The U.S

When you hear the name Cicero you might not think of the greatest writer in history but there is a solid reason for him being on the list.

Cicero was a politician, orator, and statesman during the height of the Late Roman Republic. However, the reason for him being on this list is due to his groundbreaking stance on political philosophy.

Cicero created many of the modern legal and government systems that we enjoy today. All of this from a man who lived almost two millennia ago.

The biggest contribution of Cicero towards history was his establishment of natural law as a right to government. This simply means that people hold natural rights in them being human beings.

To Cicero the power of government came from the average Roman person. This is a foundational concept of all modern governments today.

Further, Cicero gave us natural law. Humans in our modern legal institutions have a right to defend themselves, speak freely, and hold liberty over their own actions. This started with Cicero.

As such Cicero lands on this list of the top 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Thomas Hobbes

Born5th of April, 1588
Died4th of December, 1679
Famous Quote“It is not wisdom but authority that makes law.”
Known ForFather of modern political theory, highly influencing modern democracy, contributor to several fields of academia
Region of WorldEngland, 16th/17th century
Further ReadingThomas Hobbes: His 2 Major Influences Upon Modern Society

Thomas Hobbes remains one of the most influential and greatest writers in history due to his work on social contract theory.

Thomas Hobbes was born into 16th century England and would see the English Civil War firsthand. This drastically changed his worldview and helped to inspire him to write his massively influential book Leviathan.

In Leviathan Thomas Hobbes presents the argument that man inherently gives up certain natural rights to secure life, liberty, and safety under a government. This profoundly impacted the development of modern governments and history.

Before Hobbes much of western Europe followed a divine mandate in having monarch’s control power. This divine mandate would be passed down through the Church which would then pass it through to a monarchy. This presented a top down right to rule model which most of society followed.

However, Thomas Hobbes in watching the English Civil War unfold saw a different government model. This new model would be called the Social Contract and it presented the argument that people held natural rights to rule over themselves.

This forever altered history and the development of nearly all nations today. The American and French Revolution’s of the 18th century quoted Hobbes’s work to justify their separation from monarchies and moving towards Republics.

As such Hobbes has influenced billions of people across the world and today remains one of the greatest writers in history.

Miguel de Cervantes

Born29th of September, 1547
Died22nd of April, 1616
Famous Quote“In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.”
Known ForWriting the world’s first modern novel, establishing the modern Spanish language.
Region of WorldEurope/Spain, 16th century
Further ReadingMiguel de Cervantes: The 3 Ways Don Quixote Influenced History

Miguel de Cervantes wrote what many academics call the most important novel in history, the 14th century Don Quixote.

Don Quixote tells the story of a man named Alonso Quijano who becomes fascinated with reviving the concept of chivalry in 16th century Spain. Along with his trusty farmer-squire Sancho Panza Don Quixote provides a subtle critique of 16th century Spanish society.

The reason that Miguel de Cervantes lands on this list is due to the effects that his publication of Don Quixote had upon the intellectual development of the western world. On the surface level Don Quixote is just an entertaining story with little substance. However, upon a close inspection one can begin to see the emergence of the concept of liberty over chivalry.

Don Quixote outlines the transition of European society from the medieval period to the modern. To this day Don Quixote remains one of the most cited books in the history of the world.

Further, Cervantes’s influence is directly cited in major literary works such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Idiot, and Shakespeare’s Cardenio.

Simply put, Cervantes’s work remains one of the most influential books that has ever been published. In many ways Don Quixote began to defined the development of the modern era.

As such, Miguel de Cervantes lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Karl Marx

Born5th of May, 1818
Died14th of March, 1883
Famous Quote“History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as farce.”
Known ForPublishing controversial political philosophy
Region of WorldEngland/Germany, 19th century
Further ReadingKarl Marx: How Marx Created Modern Economic History

One of the absolute most influential writers in history would easily be Karl Marx.

Most people remember Karl Marx for his inspiration in the rise of communism as a form of government during the 20th century. However, this is not why Marx has ended up on this list.

The reason that Karl Marx remains one of the greatest writers in history is because of his creation of the modern field of economic history.

Before Karl Marx the field of economics was built around statistics and agricultural production. Influential works such as Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population outlined how economic theory should be tied to physical land production and population growth.

Marx however believed that instead of agricultural production creating the basis of economies it was instead population labor. Further, Marx used historical sources to demonstrate that throughout the whole of human history production was created not from agriculture but rather control of a labor force.

To Marx labor forces and their relation to the owners of labor forces created a constant state of conflict. Out of this conflict arose historical events and all societal production. This was what Karl Marx called “historical materialism.” Or that the struggle for material goods powered society and history.

Marx’s work forever altered society. Now people are more aware than ever of the power dynamic within society. In the 20th century alone hundreds of millions of people have been impacted by his work.

This is the reason that Karl Marx has landed firmly on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

J.R.R Tolkien

Born3rd of January, 1892
Died2nd of September, 1973
Famous Quote“Not all those who wander are lost.”
Known ForWriting high fantasy, creating national novels, defining entertainment and literature forever
Region of WorldBritain, 20th century.
Further ReadingJ.R.R Tolkien: His 3 Influences That Changed World History

Considered by many to be the father of modern fiction writing it should be to no one’s surprise that J.R.R Tolkien has landed on this list.

Tolkien would serve in World War One at the Battle of the Somme. This would forever alter his view of the world and profoundly impact his writing career.

Upon returning home Tolkien would begin to tell his children bedtime stories that he made up. In order to remember these stories Tolkien would begin to write them down. They followed the tale of a hobbit as he would leave his quant home on an adventure to save the home of another group of people, the Dwarfs.

These bedtime stories would become one of the histories best selling children’s books, The Hobbit. This alone would be enough to cement Tolkien’s legacy, however it would be his next book that would forever change the world and mark him as one of the greatest writers of all time.

After the literary success of The Hobbit Tolkien decided he would expand upon his world by creating an epic national novel that helped to explain the modern British Nation. This was the foundation of The Lord of The Rings.

Today all modern fantasy books, movies, video games, and shows have been inspired by the literary genius of Tolkien. As such he easily lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Born11th of November, 1821
Died9th of February, 1881
Famous Quote“Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.”
Known ForPhilosophical writer exploring human condition in 19th century Russia, laying foundation for modern literature.
Region of WorldRussia, 19th century.
Further ReadingFyodor Dostoevsky: The 3 Reasons Dostoevsky Is Famous Today

Of all the eastern writers, none are greater and more influential than Fyodor Dostoevsky for his stance on totalitarianism and the social contract.

Dostoevsky wrote in 19th century Russia. His first career was serving in the Russian Tsar’s military but after a couple publications he decided to resign and pursue a career as a full time writer.

However in attempting to do this Dostoevsky would begin to read forbidden texts that could be seen as hyper critical of the Tsar’s reign. As a result Dostoevsky would spend several years in solitary confinement in a prison in Siberia.

This had a profound impact upon his subsequent philosophy and writing. Dostoevsky is remembered today for his highly unique view on how government and society should be run.

According to Dostoevsky a government should have an authoritarian leader, but that this leader should be responsive to the people’s desires and wishes. In turn this leader had absolute control over the government. This according to Dostoevsky would allow a nation to rapidly respond to both domestic and external threats efficiently.

From this we get some of the most influential philosophers in the 20th century. Further, Dostoevsky remains an important figure in history due to his impact upon the subsequent development of the Soviet Union after World War II.

Today Dostoevsky remains an important figure in eastern philosophy. He is still cited and studied worldwide. This in combination with this impact upon billions of lives worldwide has firmly landed him on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Mark Twain

BornNovember 30th, 1835
DiedApril 21st, 1910
Famous Quote“May you always keep your youth.”
Known ForChanging American literature, Supporting the sciences
Region of the WorldUnited States, 19th century
Further ReadingMark Twain: The Reason Why Twain Became Famous

Mark Twain remains one of the most influential and greatest writers in history for one simple reason, helping to create the monumental literary culture of the United States.

Mark Twain was born into the antebellum south in Mississippi. He would live through the American civil war which had an impact upon his worldview and most importantly his writings.

Twain was a prolific writer. To this day academics are still finding more written material by one of his many pseudonyms.

However, it is not his body of written material that lands him on this list. Rather it is the creation of the modern field of American literature during the mid part of the 19th century. This would inspire subsequent North American literary authors such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, and J.D Salinger.

During Mark Twain’s time most of American literature was centered around emulating European stories of romance, history, and high literature. Twain on the other hand created something completely new and American.

Mark Twain’s literary style took childhood stories of his life in the antebellum south and combined them with American folk tales. This created a whimsical world of mystery and adventure.

Almost overnight the American style of literature was born. This was centered around adventure and exploration. Today this has drastically influenced the development of the United States.

Modern scholarship such as Alan Gribben’s article “The Importance of Mark Twain” states that “Mark Twain is the only writer we have recognized as an author of immortal American prose.” A quote that I believe perfectly symbolizes the importance of this author upon the development of the American culture of adventure, humility, kindness, and tenacity.

Today Twain’s influence has impacted billions of people worldwide. As such he firmly lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Jane Austen

BornDecember 16th, 1775
Died18th of July, 1817
Famous Quote“Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”
Known ForStarting the transition to 19th century realism literature, creating courtship rituals in the west, bolstering women’s rights.
Region Of The WorldEngland, 18th and 19th century.
Further ReadingJane Austin: How She Changed History With Her Novels

Jane Austen remains one of the most influential and greatest writers of all time, but not for the reason that people might suspect.

Jane Austen wrote novels such as Pride and Prejudice that one the surface level were tales of romantic 18th century English love. These novels would become best sellers and many people would romanticize her books as the ideal courtship romantic books.

However, Jane Austen wrote her works in a certain way to get past the English censorship office which was controlled by the English landholding elite. This English landholding elite were hyper critical of their power structure within society, including the power dynamic within marriage.

Jane Austen’s work is a satire upon the lifestyles of the English Landholding elite families that lived in the London countryside. All of Jane Austen’s work highlights how Women would hold no power within society and were forced to marry against their will suitors so that they could be provided for.

Austen’s work presents a witty satire of the elite of English societies. During a time where the English were preaching that they were egalitarian and proper in Austen’s eyes they were still barbaric in wedlock.

As a result of Jane Austen’s works the 19th century saw a radical transformation in the rights of Women across the western world. As such she remains one of the most influential and greatest writers of all time and firmly lands on this list.

George Orwell

Born25th of June, 1903
Died21st of January, 1950
Famous Quote“In times of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Known ForPublishing books that challenge totalitarianism, Reinforcing freedom of speech, Bolstering democratic principles
Region of WorldEngland/Europe, 20th century
Further ReadingGeorge Orwell: 3 Ways This Author Changed History Forever

Almost the entire known world has heard of the influential author George Orwell. This is because of his stance upon the power of centralized and unchecked government.

George Orwell was writing during a transformative time in world history. This was the 20th century that saw the rise of totalitarian regimes that attempted to directly control their populations through propaganda and rhetoric.

Orwell’s work reflects this observance of the world. To George Orwell nothing was scarier than a strong central government that would remove liberties and freedoms from its populace in the name of security.

This is the recurring theme in his foundational texts 1984 and Animal Farm. In both of these monumental works Orwell provides a world where in the name of security the people have given up their natural ingrained rights. As a result totalitarianisms rises even out of utopia governments such as in Animal Farm.

Today we often hear of words that directly come out of Orwell’s work and are highly critical of strong central government actions. These words are normal such as “big brother” and “thoughtcrime.”

From Orwell’s work his biggest influence remains the creation of strong representative governments and the pushing towards world peace. Today few authors are cited more in United Nations meetings as Orwell.

Because of his impact upon our modern society he remains one of the greatest and most influential writers in history.

Gabriel Garcia Marques

Born6th of March, 1927
Died17th of April, 2014
Famous Quote“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.”
Known ForStarting literary magic realism, highlighting Latin and South American culture
Region of WorldColumbia/Latin America, 20th century
Further ReadingGabriel Garcia Marquez: 3 Ways He Changed American History

Before the 20th century the literary world failed to recognize the developing community of intellectual writers in South and Latin America.

In 1967 however that forever changed with the publication of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. This book became a worldwide sensation and influenced the importance of South and Latin American culture on the world stage.

More importantly Marquez’s book One Hundred Years of Solitude introduced to the world a wholly American style of writing. This was the style of magical realism, or the act of portraying mythical portions of art in a boring and realistic way. However, one the contrary the boring and realistic parts of life would be portrayed in mythical and magical ways.

This style of writing was so popular that it influenced the entire world. Almost overnight the South and Latin American culture became sought after and tourism boomed.

However, Marques was not alone in his writing. For nearly 100 years before him Latin and South America had been producing astounding works of literary art. Marques opened up the path for the world to fall in love with the vivid culture of the Americas.

Today Marquez is remembered for his work on successfully saving the culture of the Americas from being forgotten. As a result of his great writings in April of 2014 the president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos named Marques “The greatest Columbian who ever lived.”

As a result of his massive influence upon the development of Latin and South America on the world stage Gabriel Garcia Marquez easily lands on this list of the absolute top 25 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Edgar Allan Poe

BornJanuary 19th, 1809
DiedOctober 7th, 1849
Famous Quote“We loved with a love that was more than love.”
Known ForFamous writer, Starting the mystery thriller genre, Influencing U.S media and culture
Region of WorldUnited States, 19th century
Further ReadingEdgar Allan Poe: His 3 Influences Upon American Society

Almost everybody around the world has heard of the famous American poet Edgar Allen Poe. He is known for writing what is widely considered the most famous poem of all time, The Raven.

However it is not his written works that have landed him on this list. Rather, it is instead his impact upon developing the image of the United States in the eyes of Europe and later Asia.

Many people know of Poe’s influence upon the United States on the domestic level. During his time in the United States he was largely poor and would regard himself as unsuccessful.

Poe would never live to see his greatest accomplishment. That across the Atlantic in Europe his work was being hailed as a masterpiece. Poe’s work created the modern detective thriller genre that would inspire works such as Sherlock Holmes.

While this creation of a whole genre of literature is great alone it is not why he is on this list. What landed him on this list was the influence his works had upon developing the image of the United States across the world.

Through Poe’s literature the United States was pictured as a dark, brooding, and mesmerizing place. Readers in Europe would read stories such as The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart and begin to associate the United States with a new kind of mysterious humanism.

The image of a dark brooding yet human and loving American started with Poe. To this day you can find the influences of Poe in modern monster thriller movies, romance books, and noir comics.

Simply put, Edgar Allan Poe created the modern American stereotype throughout Europe along with creating a whole genre of thriller works of art. Everyday billions of people worldwide interact with his writings.

As such he lands upon this list.

Charles Dickens

BornFebruary 7th, 1812
Died9th of June, 1870
Famous Quote“Trifles make the sum of life.”
Known ForWriting societal critiques of Victorian England, helping to reform the prison system, helping to establish Victorian morals in the west
Region of WorldEngland, 19th century
Further ReadingCharles Dickens: His 3 Accomplishments That Changed History

One of the most influential writers of all time is none other than Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens was born into Victorian London shortly after the industrial revolution. To most this was a time of profound change and a perceived higher quality of life. Dickens at an early age would have to work 14-16 hour days to help pay off his fathers debt while he served time in a debtors prison.

This profoundly impacted the writing of Dickens. Today we remember him for the widely popular stories of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and his most famous work A Christmas Carol.

Each of Dickens’s works revolve around one core concept. Highlighting how barbaric the London industrial revolution actually was. To Dickens his work would show how certain members of society who held the capital production of factories lived lavish lives while the workers barely could survive.

The reason that Charles Dickens is so influential today is because his widely popular books forced the reader to ask questions on the nature of industrialization and human rights.

Today we remember Dickens for his influence in developing the world’s modern labor rights. Without him it’s doubtful that our modern society would look the same without him.

As such it should be no surprise that Dickens lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Born15th of October, 1844
Died25th of August, 1900
Famous Quote“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
Known For19th century philosopher, cultural critic, establishing will to power as innate virtue of man
Region of WorldGermany, 19th century
Further ReadingFriedrich Nietzsche: The 3 Reasons Nietzsche Never Married

One of the most influential philosophers and writers of the modern era is Friedrich Nietzsche. Many people know of Nietzsche’s great works but few understand just how impactful his writings have become.

Nietzsche would write his works during the transition of Europe from Feudal empires to the modern nations of today. For Nietzsche he was fascinated with how some of the greatest people in history rise above others to become successful and influential.

Using past historical examples such as Ancient Egypt Nietzsche comes to the conclusion that the greatest people in the world became great by existing outside society and pursuing power through their own willpower.

From this comes Nietzsche’s foundational theory of The Will To Power. This theory states that all power in society comes from a person’s stronger will to abandon society and pursue more power that only can exist outside society. This person in Nietzsche’s eyes would be something he called the Ubermensch or Superman.

Once this Ubermensch was identified in society it was the job of the super human to teach society how to become better. Thus uplifting society as a whole. Overtime Nietzsche argued this would significantly advance the human race.

Nietzsche would die as a nearly unknown writer. His sister after his death would rework and market his works to radical groups throughout Europe.

Today Nietzsche’s philosophical works are remembered for their massive impact upon the first and second world wars.

As a result of continuing scholarly debate surrounding the exact nature of Nietzsche and the massive impact his work has had upon society he is on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Plato

Born428 BC
Died347 BC
Famous Quote“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance”
Known ForFounding the first university, creating the modern education system
Region of WorldAthens/Greece, 3rd century BC
Further ReadingPlato: His 3 Greatest Contributions To Education

Plato is perhaps the most cited philosopher and writer in all of history. His influence can be felt across every society in our modern society.

The reason for this was that he created the world’s first university. On top of this Plato is considered the father of modern education for his foundational theories on how human minds develop and learn.

Plato lived in the golden age of ancient Greece. He would found a University called the Academy just north of the modern city of Athens. Within this university Plato would hold classes and teach physics, mathematics, history, rhetoric, and many other fields.

While not all of his theories remain, his most influential theory is his stance on how the mind learns. The modern field of epistemology was created with Plato who believed that the human mind learned by combining all previous knowledge gained from a human’s interaction with their observable universe.

Today this is called the theory of Platonic Epistemology. Here the teacher serves as only a guiding force for the student to learn on their own. If you attended a 4th century Plato lecture you would engage with Plato on topics such as theocracy, philosophy, and nature. From this dialog you would gain valuable information.

This was the foundational theory that all modern universities stem from.

Because of this Plato’s influence as a writer marks him as one of the most influential and greatest writers of all time.

Seneca

Born4 BC
Died65 AD
Famous Quote“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”
Know ForFamous stoic, tutoring the emperor Nero, writing foundational texts on concept of happiness
Region of WorldItaly/Rome, 1st century AD
Further ReadingSeneca: The 3 Roles of Reason in the Conception of Happiness

The last writer on our list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history is none other than Seneca.

Seneca lived a very hard life of constant struggle and turmoil. He lived during the early Roman Empire and would be exiled by the Emperor Caligula. While in exile he would begin to form his foundational philosophical works that have forever changed history.

Today Seneca is remembered for his view on the nature of happiness in the lives of humans. Seneca’s work reminds us that our lives are short but long enough to live well if we know how to pursue worthy goals.

This was the foundation of Seneca’s stoic philosophy. That we should find happiness in ourselves and not in outside events. These theories have profoundly impacted the development of history.

Subsequent Roman Emperors such as Marcus Aurelius followed Seneca’s teachings. Today leaders around the world practice stoicism as a means of controlling their own emotions while pursuing life goals.

Seneca is often cited as one of the most influential philosophers of all time. We can see examples of his great works in other great writers such as Shakespeare.

Billions of people throughout history have been impacted by the writings of Seneca. As a result he firmly lands on this list of the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers in history.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article that goes over the absolute 21 most influential and greatest writers of history.

There were several other great candidates to put on this list. However, those candidates often drew immense inspiration from the authors on this list. In an effort to keep the list manageable I have distilled it down to the 21 most influential and greatest in history.

If you think a writer should be on this list let me know by emailing me. This list is by no means complete.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. Feel free to sign up for the free newsletter and share around the web.

Further, you can check out some of the other articles below. 

Sincerely,

Nick