Not quite all human life is here, but there is a lot of stuff out there which can save a medievalist a great deal of effort, and it sometimes seems as if not very much of it is as well known as it ought to be. The things I frequently use or find worthwhile therefore appear below. I hope you get something out of them too, and if you know of more, I'd be very glad to add them. Also, please let me know about any dead links: the e-mail address in question is in the text in the left sidebar.
This page has grown somewhat since I first pulled it together, and I've amassed quite a lot of links that needed some organisation. You can therefore use the links below to jump to sections you might be interested in.
- General introductions to medieval history (on the Internet)
- Bibliographical resources, general
- Bibliographical resources, specific
- Online texts, general collections
- Online texts, specific in theme or corpus
- Online texts, periodicals
- Online texts, original documents and manuscripts
- Translation out of or into other languages
- Art and Material Culture
- Technology in medieval studies
- Online communities and the blogosphere
The shallow end
No idea where to start? Interested in the Middle Ages but not ready for a full-scale reading list? There are some reasonable places to get a web-style light introduction.
- Chief among these is probably ThoughtCo.com's medieval and Renaissance history section, largely organised by Melissa Snell, who has read a lot so that you don't have to.
- Before you go much further, however, the Internet is tricky. After all, anyone can start a website (look at this!). If you find a site that seems to have all the answers, be suspicious. This page on how to evaluate web resources is a very useful resource, which replaces for me the now-defunct Virgina Tech one I used to link to from here.
- And there's a reasonable timeline here, though I wouldn't rely on either its dates or its attitudes to knowledge for anything important...
Study starts with books
Firstly you need to know what's out there, and for that, your local academic library is probably the place to start, as they may have subscriptions to things like:
- Web of Science, which contains the Arts & Humanities Citation Index but requires an institutional subscription;
You can of course get somewhere by just prowling through library catalogues, which you can at least do for free, such as:
- the British Library;
- the Cambridge University Library Newton catalogue;
- Search Oxford Libraries Online, the portal of the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford
- the University of London Libraries Catalogue;
- or the whole bundle and several others in the United Kingdom in one point-and-click interface in the COPAC Union Catalogue, at least when all its constituent parts are functioning and its servers are alive...
- Not enough? Well if need be the whole world's libraries (at least, those that choose to participate) are indexed in WorldCat here.
On the whole, however, subject searches in this sort of apparatus are dangerously incomplete, and you really need to know what you're looking for already. There's no real substitute for just being up to date with recent periodical literature and reviews, though that also is no substitute for being in contact with people who actually publish the stuff.
If you do know what you're after, though, or have a starting point, the single best place to start is:
- the OPAC of Regesta Imperii. It doesn't yet have everything, nor ever will given volume of production, but they're well on the way, and even if it may be debatable how they sourced it all, it is a good resource.
- There is also a valuable guide to periodical literature at Fordham University called Magazine Stacks.
There are also of course a number of online bibliographies out there, although they cater to specialist areas rather more.
- The Bibliography for British and Irish History mounted by the Institute of Historical Research.
- Adam Kosto and Paul Freedman's Bibliography for the History of Medieval Catalonia, which I hope some day they'll carry on expanding.
- The Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas maintains a Repertorio del Medievalismo Hispánico.
- And perhaps most useful of the bunch, the Universidad de Rioja runs a fabulous literature search site called Dialnet, for what I assume are legacy reasons that entirely belie how much stuff lurks therein, with fulltext links wherever possible.
- There is a fantastic gathering of resources for the Francophone medievalist at Ménestrel, although I miss the full-text sources they used to mount an have now removed on the foolish illusion that they're all online somewhere else still...
The increasing cost of publication on paper and the impossibility of managing to hold everything on shelves is driving teaching and libraries both to exploit online presentation of material. There are some really good corpora out there, though mainly in particular areas. A few brave sites struggle for comprehensiveness, and chief among them must be recognised:
- Paul Halsall's Internet Medieval Sourcebook at Fordham University, which is restricted slightly by copyright and considerably by available space but still succeeds in being somewhere that you can usefully direct your students;
- it's notionally part of the rather larger, vaguer, but very venerable and still sometimes useful Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies, in which lurks much quite useful material if only you can get it out of its search engine.
- Also, Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library has, in a mostly helpful way, collected a vast range of links, some to the highest-quality stuff and others less so, at its History of Medieval & Renaissance Europe: Primary Documents page.
- There is much of use in the Online Medieval and Classic Library, not least the default web translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle but quite a lot more too.
- Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, meanwhile, has a smaller, but very useful, collection of Insular texts up covering the age that would have been Arthur's if he existed, with Keith's generally sharp commentary to guide you.
Once you stop trying to find everything at once it's astonishing what's out there:
- The most obvious and wonderful thing is the recent transition of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, to which a few lucky people may have had library access, to gratuitous and expansive free online format, which puts a vast majority of our vital texts online.
- Of that which the MGH does not contain, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France has a bewildering variety online as PDF files, almost without indexing but including for example Adhémar of Chabannes's Historiae and Du Cange's Lexicon as part of their Gallica site. It used also to include the whole of the Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, and some day maybe the missing ones will be back.
- A further quality cluster of source texts lurks at the rather snazzy Biblotheca augustana.
- And further material, albeit without apparatus or credits, is located at the Ad Fontes Academy Latin Library.
- The Heidelberger Hypertextserver has a variety of things too though their concentration is mostly theological;
- All kinds of documents, and a focus particularly on maps, new and old, can be found at Regnum Francorum Online, providing "interactive maps and sources of early medieval Europe 614-840";
- Hispanists may find joy in the Library of Iberian Resources Online;
- And Celticists will find pretty much everything in the Corpus of ELectronic Texts (do you get it?);
and there are a number of different ways to get at periodical literature online, such as:
- the collection of useful journals online at Persée: portail de revues scientifiques en sciences humaines et sociales;
- a very useful portal for those of us concerned with Catalonia is Revistes Catalanes amb Accés obert;
- a fair chunk of the rest of Spain is also taken in by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas recently putting most of its journals online, at least in their most recent issues
- and for those with the appropriate subscriptions, of course there's the JSTOR Journal Archive.
- Since academic journal publishing makes increasingly little economic sense, however, and the people who administer it don't get paid for their time, there is a move to put it all online in the first place and stop charging; the Open Humanities Press is in the vanguard with their stable of journals.
Increasingly, too, we're seeing the original documents and manuscripts being put online, which is glorious but very hard to keep track of. Here are a few really useful servers.
- The Archives Nationales de France are engaged in digitisation via their ARCHIM portal here;
- Not to be outdone, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France have their illuminated manuscripts all viewable though this portal called Mandragore; these are also viewable on Gallica, already mentioned, where the rest of their digitised material also hangs out.
- The Spanish government, meanwhile, has mounted an increasingly vast amount of material on their somewhat impenetrable Portal de ARchivos Españols (PARES); it's hard to find anything without knowing exactly where it is already but if you do it's amazing what's in there...
- Similarly voluminous and confusing but with even more potential, the Vatican is now well on the way to digitising its manuscript collection, which is useful to know as it's almost impossible to find from their actual Digital Library site
- The British Library's digitised collections are viewable through its Online Gallery
- The Parker Library at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, which has one of the best collections of medieval manuscripts the world over, has teamed up with Stanford University to build Parker on the Web, which also contains treasures.
- UCLA once maintained a Catalogue of Digitized Manuscripts, and it's still there along with their expression of defeat at trying to keep up with the ever-expanding body of material;
- some years ago the incomparable Mark Handley started the site Late Antique and Early Medieval Inscriptions, a mass of bibliography as well as source texts
Of course, given that I am a charter historian, it seems only right that somewhere on this page there should lurk some of the endeavours various people have made to get them onto the web. If most of what I know to link to is Anglo-Saxonist, that will be partly because I find it easier to hunt things in English, partly because I know some of the people involved and mostly because the fact that it only took one man to put the whole Anglo-Saxon charter corpus online gives them the edge over places with some actual volume of material...
- Basic introduction to the Anglo-Saxon material is to be found in Kemble: Anglo-Saxon Charters WWW, which includes the Electronic Sawyer.
- Outside Britain, the French currently lead the way: the Sorbonne has a variety of French cartularies online for them as like that sort of thing;
- the Université de Nancy's ARTEM project finally went online recently along with a number of extra datasets as Telma, traitement électronique des manuscrits et des archives;
- and the leviathan corpus of Burgundian charter material, including the Cluny material for those that care (fully indexed!) and even a variety of archæological sites indexed in parallel, can be found at ArTeHiS: Archéologie, Terre, Histoire, Sociétés.
I'm always anxious to know of more such sites, so if you do, pass it on!
These things of course take a certain amount of skill to read, and that skill is called Palæography. If this sounds like a skill you'd like to acquire, happily online training is available care of Diane Tillotson and her site Medieval Writing. And if that doesn't seem challenging enough, here are some palæography exercises in French!
"But it's all in Latin!"
Help is at hand. The big daddy of all medieval Latin dictionaries, Du Cange, is online as a database now, but there are a number of useful translator sites out there too. For my purposes the ones I have found most useful of all are:
- William Whitaker's Words, a really useful translator which will attempt to parse Latin words in any declension or conjugation and will bravely attempt to transform medieval forms; it will also make things up which may be the answer, so requires care, but for a quick suggestion it's invaluable, and the downloadable program is even better;
- or, if you prefer, there is an alternative one, Glossa, here;
- and the (sadly) incomparable Orbis Latinus of Johannes De Graesse, in which you have a better chance of finding that unparseable place-name than anywhere else.
- And for more modern languages there's the little-known Dictionary.com, whose full-text translator produces slightly better results than does Google Translate, at least for the moment.
"I think the answer lies in the soil"
No historian of any stamp can afford to ignore archaeology, except maybe people working on canon law... Everyone else should be leaping up and down at the prospect of more evidence, and evidence that lets you get at a completely different part of the medieval world than text-based study does. However, my knowledge of such sites is a bit more limited.
- In Britain, of course, supposedly everything is going to be databased online eventually by the Portable Antiquites Service, with a now much-improved database.
- In Ireland there is the Early Medieval Archaeology Project trying to catch up with the backlog of data processing from the boom-time digging there.
Submissions of more such sites very welcome!
Or In the Money?
Despite my best attempts to get away from this fact, as of this update it's still true I have spent more time employed to work on coins than on medieval history. I am still publishing in the field and now teach numismatics in three of my courses, so I probably just ought to admit that this is one of my fields. Consquently, I should have some coins databases here too, and thankfully there's a handy list just ready to be replicated on the website of the Royal Numismatic Society (London), which has these things in it:
- the part of Birmingham University's Online Collections that is in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and composed of numismatic material, which is ever-growing but which I had some hand in getting going
- the Département des monnaies, médailles et antiques in the Bibliothèque nationale de France
- the Collections Online database at the British Museum, from which many coins can be extracted
- the Collections Explorer of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, where I put about ten thousand of the coins you can find there
- the Münzkabinett of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
- NUMIS, the database of the Netherlands' Nationale Numismatische Collectie
- and the Münzkabinett of the Staatliches Museum Berlin
To name but a few!
Other other evidences
Of course there's more. I'm no art historian, but I know what I like—or something. On the rare occasions that we have them the early medievalist can profit from visual sources, and of these the most famous (forgive the English bias... ) is:
- the Bayeux Tapestry.
- A rather broader selection is offered by the Österreichisches Akademie der Wissenschaften's IMAREAL image server.
- A fantastic array of photographs of medieval objects and places, genuinely a lifetime's work, is being progressively put online by photographer Genevra Kornbluth.
- And, despite the look of it, there is some genuinely good stuff available through Museum With No Frontiers.
- The Web Gallery of Art is not quite so garishly on sale, but is also generally rather later than I'm interested in.
- And for the more mundane and, some might say, interesting ends of material culture, Karen Larsdatter's Medieval Material Culture has a very useful set of links-pages that give you online resources for almost everything medieval people might have made, eaten, worn or used.
Technology in medieval studies
These days, of course, the computer is as much of an aid as the spade if not rather more. That brings its own complications, and The Association for History and Computing will help you learn about them, although if you're French the journal Le Médiéviste et l'Ordinateur may also be of interest. Lastly, a variety of interesting projects on these lines are held at DH Commons here, and you may even find the people you need to start your own! There is a huge range of software intended to help you research, store data, find it again, write, write quicker, write better (lots of academics have trouble writing, it seems) but I don't use those, so I can only refer you to the ProfHacker blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education, something that I do not do without reservations. It is the Chronicle, after all.
Not many established scholars participate in such things, although tales of old flame-wars on soc.history.medieval might suggest otherwise to you, but for those in the more insecure parts of the profession, there appears to be some interest in knowing that we're not alone...
- For starters there is a medievalists' community on Livejournal, and I'm sure there are yet more on Facebook and so forth if you do such things (I do not).
- In Cambridge at least there is the Medieval Reading Group's Marginalia, although their focus is primarily literary;
- In Spain there is the Socieded Española de Estudios Medievales;
- Not tied to anything so mundane as a location, there is the Global Middle Ages project, attempting to build a virtual interdisciplinary cluster;
- Covering nunneries wheresoever one might find them, there is The Monastic Matrix, which has lots of basic information and a mass of bibliography and takes them a lot of work, I believe; it looks that way, anyway;
- and others I knew of have passed from the scene, and I'd like to know of new ones.
When I started this site, the blogosphere (I can use this word unironically, that's how far things have gone) seemed to be where it wa at, from free discussion and encouragement to presentation of genuine research for peer pre-review and even just publication. I was very glad to be a part of this great endeavour, and following that link will take you to a list of the others I myself used to follow, but I have to admit that professional time pressure has kept me from doing anything there for some time, though I hope this will soon change, and I'm not the only one. So you may be trying to reach me here instead! If you have any comments that the carefully-buried e-mail address in the left sidebar there won't accommodate, all the same, the blog still finds me and I'd be glad to hear from you there.