EARLY MEDIEVAL HISTORY
Curated by Segolene Gence.
Welcome to our Early Medieval History page!
This page contains resources of various types for the study and teaching of the history of the early medieval world (c.300 - c.1100). Read our introduction for general resources on early medieval society. The page then zooms in on early medieval England before expanding its focus to Europe and beyond. If you would like to contribute to this page, you can suggest a resource here.
For help with the linguistic challenges that comes with some of the primary sources featured in those resources, you can rely on our Medieval Languages page.
Simply click on the name of a resource to be taken directly to its website.
Where to start?
In our introductory section, you will find general resources addressing different aspects of the early medieval European society. Please, use our buttons to navigate the resources available to you in this section.
Time was kept differently across history and societies. Popularised by Bede, the Julian Calendar and the practice of dating forward from the birth of Christ was used by most of early European medieval society by 1000 AD, until the Gregorian calendar got introduced in 1582 by Papal decree. To correct the errors introduced by the Julian calendar, ten days were dropped in September 1582, so that September 4 was followed by September 15. The new calendar was not immediately adopted by all countries. Britain only adopted it in 1752 while France adopted it immediately. In the end, it took 350 years for the Gregorian Calendar to be fully adopted, which means that the date on which historical events are recorded to have occurred will differ depending on which country's calendar was the reference. Thus particularly useful when working with some primary resources that do not use regnal years, and dating early medieval events post-1000, the Historical Calendar, a multi-country calendar spanning years 1000 to 2100, allows for simple movement between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
If you are interested in early medieval European society’s perception of the world, we invite you to visit Race 101 for Early Medieval Studies, an ongoing bibliography compiled by Dr. Erik Wade and Dr. M. Rambaran-Olm for the teaching and study of medieval perceptions and depictions of race, with a particular focus on early literature. The resource also contains a separate list of studies by foundational Critical Race scholars. Another important resource about medieval European society is the Medieval Disability Glossary, an in-progress project which provides short descriptions of medieval European perceptions of disabilities with some further reading.
If you are interested in the lives of medieval women, Epistolae is a platform gathering letters to and from women within the early medieval era, from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Letters appear in both Latin and English translation, and may be searched by both author and recipient. Some biographic informations are also available for the women mentioned. Focusing on women living in religious communities, you will find that Monastic Matrix offers many resources on the topic: primary and secondary sources, biographies, a bibliography, a glossary and a repertory of these communities.
To understand the fabric of early medieval society and its workings, one must also look at the laws that made its makeup. You can start with Volterra, a resource list for the study of late antique and early medieval law of several kingdoms on the continent and Britain, as well as canon law. If you are interested in the latter, we recommend also visiting Clavis Canonum (in German and English), a database of canon law collections from before 1140, whereby one can track the presence of canons by searching for the canon's incipit or explicit.
On that last point, you will probably want to examine the role of religion and its development within early medieval society. Early Christian Texts offer texts and translations of various early church councils, letters and treatises that will allow you to explore the church’s early history and functioning. The Monastic Manuscript project proposes a wealth of resources and lists of digitised manuscripts for the study of early medieval monasticism, including topics such as pastoral care, penitential traditions and female monasticism, from across Europe. If you are interested in the development of the cult of saints, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity (CSLA), is a database for the eponymous project developed by the University of Oxford covering this topic up to c.700 with key texts presented in their original language, all with English translation and brief contextual commentary. If you are interested in the theology of the period, we invite you to visit our Medieval Theology page.
Some noteworthy general resources:
Carleton Medieval Primary Sources offering various early and central medieval source translations.
Internet Medieval Sourcebook which gathers translated sources (many in extract) on a variety of topics from across the Middle Ages, including history and literature.
In this second section, you will find various historic resources specific to Early Medieval England selected for you. More resources on England are also available in our medieval charters section.
Early English Textual Sources
Fontes Anglo-Saxonici is a database developed by the University of Saint-Andrew’s which covers about 1150 Early medieval texts from England (including by foreign authors) - over 500 texts in Old English and over 600 texts in Latin. Authors range from Abbo to Wulfstan. You can select an early medieval English (or ‘target’) text (whether Old English or Latin) and get a report of all the sources used for it, passage by passage, sometimes phrase by phrase, matched to a precise location in the source text. You can get a summary account of all the different source authors used by a particular early English author, or of all the sources used for a particular early English text and follow up those in which you are interested. It is also possible to pick a text used as a source and ask for a list of all the Anglo-Saxon texts that used that source and follow up the examples that interest you.
Anglo-Saxon Canon Law offers editions, transcriptions and resources for the study of early English church law.
DigiPal is database resource for early English and Anglo-Norman palaeography in c.1000-1100.
Early English Society
Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) is database of all identifiable individuals from early English sources.
The Land of the Norman in England Database provides an introduction to a number of important Anglo-Norman families, including their appearances in royal and private records and access to automated reconstructions of the genealogies of each family and maps of landholding.
Matthew Paris' Clickable Map is an annotated, fully interactive copy of Matthew Paris’s c. 1250 map of Britain (BL Cotton MS Claudius D VI). This is an ongoing project managed by Dr John Wyatt Greenlee.
Anglo-Saxon Canon Law offers editions, transcriptions and resources for the study of early English church law.
Ieldran Database - The Early Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Mapping Project provides locations, summaries, and information about citation and collections for numerous cemeteries from the mid-fifth to early seventh centuries in England. Each site can be clicked on to reveal more information about the cemetery, the burials, associated artifacts, references for books and journal articles written about the cemetery, and where the original excavations materials, human remains and artifacts are kept. If you are interested in early medieval graves, the Anglo-Saxon Graves and Grave Goods of the 6th and 7th Centuries AD project is also of note.
The Domesday Book
It would be remiss to forget one of the most important records of England's history and moving to our next section without a mention of the Domesday Book, the survey of land holdings and resources in England commissioned by William the Conqueror and completed in 1086.
For a more general study of the Domesday Book, Open Domesday is a great resource to start with. It is is an electronic resource for studying the complete Domesday Book (both the Great and Little), including an interactive map of the places surveyed, as well as an interactive digitised copy of the manuscript with accompanying translations and annotations searchable by counties. It is also possible to look up people’s names. Though it does not provide an introduction to the manuscripts used, the website uses data issued from the Hull Domesday project, which comes with a terminology guide for the Domesday book, an introduction to the survey’s history, bibliographies, as well as many links to other Domesday Book resources.
Although more specific than Open Domesday, the Exon: The Domesday Survey of South-West England offers a thorough overview of the document it focuses on. It is an edition, translation, facsimile, description and resource for the study of Exeter Cathedral Library MS 3500 (Exon Domesday), the earliest extant manuscript of William the Conqueror's survey.
In this third section, you will find various historic resources for the study of Early Medieval Europe, including:
Starting with some miscellaneous resources that cover the whole of Europe:
If you are looking for specific individuals in early medieval Europe, Nomen et Gens is the resource for you. It is a prosopographical and etymological database of names from across continental Europe in the 4th-8th centuries.
For a guide that covers textual sources from Europe, Historian on the Edge's handlist of primary source translations focuses on published English translations of sources from Britain and Europe c.300-800.
Early Medieval Ireland
The Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) is a website which offers sources for medieval Irish literature and history.
CODECS, a database and e-resources collection for Celtic Studies published by the A. G. van Hamel Foundation for Celtic Studies, with a focus on Irish and Hiberno-Latin material (texts, manuscript, bibliographies…).
More specific to archeology, Mapping Death Database contains a catalogue of burials and burial sites in Ireland from 1st to 8th century AD including archaeological, onomastic, statistical, mapping and historical data.
More resources are also available on our Celtic Languages page.
Carolingian Canon Law Project, with sources and transcriptions of early medieval canon law.
Carolingian Polyptyques is a project focusing on carolingian inventories detailing the land resources owned by noble or great estates (such as monasteries). It offers translations and Latin editions of polyptyques, as well as sources for early medieval social and economic history.
Turbulent Priests is a gathering of translations and commentaries mostly pertaining to Carolingian and post-Carolingian Europe on Charles West's blog.
Another interesting resource for this period is the Pseudo-Isidore, an edition-in-progress of the False Decreta. The Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries are a vast and influential corpus of legal materials assembled by unknown clerical agitators in ninth-century Frankish Gaul. This will gradually supersede the earlier Projekt Pseudoisidor. See also the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita.
In transition: After Empire, a HERA-funded project which ran 2016-19 and studied the development of post-Carolingian Europe in c.900-c.1050. Includes maps, images, translations and more.
If you are in search of primary sources, you can start with Digital Monumenta Germaniae Historica (dMGH), a digitised and searchable version of the MGH, a long-running series of critical editions of sources for medieval European and especially German history.
Another similar resource is Geschichtsquellen des deutschen Mittelalters, a database of information and bibliography on medieval sources, with a focus on 'Germany' (interpreted broadly).
In transition: Regesta Imperii, a database of 'registers' of Frankish and German rulers as well as popes from 751-1519, recording their movements and activities as attested by charters and other sources.
Fordham University's Le Livre des Sources Médiévales is a comprehensive platform with great pedagogical resources to get started on medieval French history.
The Historian's Sketchpad offers translations and commentaries for 9th-11th-century France and its neighbours on Fraser McNair's blog.
We also recommend the Polonsky Foundation: Medieval England and France 700-1200, a collaborative digitisation project of the British Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The website hosted by the British Library contains many articles, including topics such as ‘medieval saints’ and ‘manuscript production in England and France’. If you are interested in viewing the digitised manuscripts for each collection and the other half of the project, you can visit the website hosted by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France here.
Kingdom of Burgundy
Corpus Burgundiae Medii Aevi (CBMA) [website in French] offers full-text editions of sources for the study of medieval Burgundy.
Early Medieval Italy
Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo [in Italian] is a vast repository of sources for the history of medieval Italy.
Sources of Lombard History offers electronic versions of early medieval Italian sources.
For prosopographical resources beyond medieval Europe, we can currently recommend:
Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire, a database of identifiable individuals from early Byzantine sources.
Onomasticon Arabicum, a database on more than 27000 scholars and celebrities from the first Muslim millenary which allows for cross-searching entries which are in Arabic and compiled from ancient biographical dictionaries.
We are always looking to expand our collection of resources and we would welcome contributions for resources about the early medieval period in regions outside of Europe. You can contact us here, by filling our ‘suggest a resource’ form.
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Early Medieval England
Early Medieval European Kingdoms and Regions
Last updated by Segolene Gence - 31/01/22