Middle Ages

Printed primary sources for the study of medieval history are plentiful and can be found in our stacks, in other collections, in archives, and now more and more published on-line in digital format. A very good if somewhat dated guide to the variety and uses of sources that historians have available is by R.C.van Caenengem "Guide to the sources of medieval history" (D117 C2213). Another useful guide that leads students to the topical approaches historians bring to the study is Crosby’s  "Medieval studies : a bibliographical guide" (Z5579.5 C76 1983).

Below are examples  of sources and  approaches that students have available in the Stevens-German Library. This is a representative and by no means complete list of resources available in the library stacks.  Remember that bibliographies are very useful in identifying sources we do not have locally but that you may obtain through interlibrary loan .

Chronicles and Annals Correspondence Christian Church The Jewish and Muslim Experience
Biography Charters Economic and Political History

Chronicles and Annals
Chronicles and Annals are useful in studying national and regional history. Chronicles are compilations of facts obviously arranged in chronological order and frequently reaching back to the birth of Christ.  They are particularly useful as a primary source for the period that the compiler is living in, often providing descriptions of political upheavals, violence, succession. Annals are  brief descriptions, approximately a paragraph that record national and international events during the year. Annals that  were  recorded in monasteries and abbeys record local history as well.  Examples of these sources that can be found in the Stevens German Library include:

1) Chronicles of Matthew Paris : monastic life in the thirteenth century (includes 'The deeds of the abbots of St. Albans', 1195-1255' and 'The Chronica majora', 1247-1250); 2) Chronicles of Froissart by Jean Froissart 1338 ?- 1410?; 3) Chronicles of the Vikings, records, memorials, and myths; 4) Deeds of Frederick Barbarossa by Otto of Friesling, 1158;5) France before Charlemagne : a translation from the Grandes chroniques; 6)  Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandolorum, et Suevarum. English translation by Isidor, of Seville, Saint, d 636; 7) Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum. English. By Bede, the Venerable, Saint, 673-735.; 8) Historiens et chroniqueurs du moyen age; 9) The Nuremberg Chronicle; 11) Analecta Anglo-Saxonica (Microfiche); 12) Annals of Fulda translated and annotated by Timothy Reuter.

Medieval biographies took as their model classical biographical narratives, and are therefore crafted narratives. Biographies were  frequently composed, sometimes in tribute or under commission, to exemplify the “holiness”,  rectitude,  or bravery of the subject, and therefore must be approached with caution. In addtion, there are a few autobiographies that may provide an entry to the world of feeling and identity that modern readers expect. Biographies exist for rulers, saints, and many women in the middle ages.

1) Alexias. English by Anna Comnena, b. 1083; 2) Book of Margery Kempe, b. ca. 1373; 3) Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voraigine, ca.1229-1298;  4) Self and society in Medieval France: the memoirs of Abbot Guibert of Nogent; 5) Historia Calamitatum, the story of my misfortunes: autobiography by Peter Abelard; 6) Life and Martyrdom of Thomas Beket, archbishop of Canterbury, from the series of lives and legends now proved to have been composed by Robert of Gloucester (Microfiche);  7) Chronicles of the Crusade (containing 'The conquest of Constantinople', by Villehardouin and 'The life of Saint Louis', by Jean de Joinville); 8) Two Lives of Charlemagne (containing 'The life of Charlemagne', by Einhard and 'Charlemagne', by Notker the Stammerer; 9) Vie de Charlemagne [par] Éginhard (translation of Vita Karoli Magni imperatoris); 10) Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St Denis and its art treasures;11) Life of Christina of Markyate a 12th century recluse.

Letters that are personal in nature are very important to the study of the middle ages because they frequently provide the motives, arguments, or contexts that are missing in public records. There are letters of instruction, those diplomatic in nature, or related to the management of land, estates, monasteries, taxes, etc., and some that are also valuable in the documentaion they provide for public transactions.

1) Alcuin and the rise of the Christian schools.; 2) English Correspondence of Saint Boniface: letters exchanged between the apostle of the Germans and his English friends translated by Edward Kylie; 3) Epistles. English. Selections from Christine of Pisan, ca 1364. The epistle of the prison of human life with an epistle to the Queen of France: and, lament on the evils of civil war; 4) Epistolae. English. Petrarch, the first modern man of letters;  a selection from his correspondence with Boccacio and other friends. 5) Last Letters of Thomas More (Sir, Saint )1478-1535; 6) The Letters of Gerbert, with his papal privileges as Sylvester II, 945-1003;  7) The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen (2 Vols.); 7) The letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153.

Charters are useful for studying lordship, law, ownership, diplomacy. They are official records of ownership or rights used to document the transfer of property,  to convey diplomatic instructions and communications between rulers, popes, and lesser rulers, or simply to convey legal agreements.  Charters are also collections of laws enacted by an administrative body such as a town or guild, and eventually constitutional texts. Charters are not always above suspicion as some are “spurious” or copied and inserted, created after the fact.  Collections of charters are called Cartularies.  Examples from our collection include:

1) British borough charters, (2 Vols.: 1042- 1216 and 1216-1307); 2) Diplomatarium of the crusader kingdom of Valencia: the  registered charters of its conqueror Jaume I, 1257-1276 (2 Vols.); 3) English Historical Documents, 1181-1327 (10 Vols.) ; 4) The Latin charters of the Anglo-Saxon period; 5)  Magna Carta; 6) Select charters and other illustrations of English constitutional history.

Documents of the European Christian Church

The collection houses primary source documents for studying topics like the papacy, investiture, codification of christian doctrine,crusades,  heresy, inquisition

1) Acta Alexandriuorum. Acts of the pagan martyrs; 2) Councils and ecclesiastical documents relating to Great Britain; 3) Chronicle of Battle Abbey;  4) Councils and synods with other documents relating to the English church (2 Vols.); 5) The Crusades, a documentary history by James Brundage; 6) Decrees of the ecumenical councils (2 Vols.,  v. 1. Nicaea I to Lateran V and  v. 2. Trent to Vatican II);  7) Documents illustrative of English Church history (Microfiche); 8) Documents of the Christian Church. 9) Directorium inquisitorum; French translation 'Le manuel des inquisiteurs' (Manual of the Inquisition of Bernard Gui). 10) The Register of Eudes of Rouen., Archbishop of Rouen (translation of 'Regestrum visitationum'). 11) Readings in church history (see Vol. 1 'From Pentecost to the Peasants Revolt'); 12) Characters of the Inquisition; 13) Medieval handbook of penance; a translation of the principal libri poenitentiales and selections from related documents.  

Economic and Political History
Includes documents to study the growth of urban environments, the experience of the peasantry and state formation.

1) Crisis of church and state, 1050-1300; 2) Litterature, politique et societe dans la France du Moyen Age; 3) Medieval political ideas ( 2 Vols.); 4) Medieval political theory: the quest for the body politic, 1100-1400 European texts; 5) Peasant’s revolt of 1381; 6) Political songs of England from the reign of John to that of Edward II (Microfiche); 7)  Rutland papers: original documents of the courts and times of Henry VII and VIII (Microfiche);  8) Sourcebook for medieval economic history;  9) Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe.

The Jewish and Muslim Experience 
Various items on the Jewish and Muslim experience in the Middle Ages can be found throughout  the collection.

1)Ibn Khaldun, 1332-1406. Kitab al ibar. Muqaddimah. An Introduction to History; 2) Adventures of Ibn Balluta, a muslim traveller of the 14th century; 3) Fihrist of Al Nad-im, a 10th century survey of Muslim Culture; 4) Letters of aa Medieval Jewish Trader;  5)Maimonides. Works; 6) A Mediterranean Society: the Jewish community in the Arb world as portrayed in documents of the Cairo Geniza , 5 vols;  7)Cuenca. Forum Conche. English. The Code of Cuenca:  municipal law on the 12th century Castilian frontier;  8) Chazan. God, Humanity, and History: the Hebrew 1st crusade narratives; 9) Arabi delle Cruxiate. English. Arab historians on the Crusades.