Fantastic medieval sources and where to find them

Course Material 2023/24

What we call the ‘Middle Ages’ covers a very long phase in the history of Europe, conventionally between c. 500 and c. 1500. Many of the institutions and thought-patterns that played key roles in the history of Europe for centuries have roots in the medieval period, including universities, lawyers, belief in European superiority and mass murder because of matters of faith. At the same time, many aspects of existence during the period seem entirely foreign to us: lewd figures alluding to sex and excrement decorated the margins of prayer-books, public execution was the norm, and people tried to appease God by self-flagellation in times of pandemics. Students interested in delving into a time which is both part of Europe’s past, but also profoundly alien to us, will learn about the primary sources and methods that allow historians to analyse and make sense of the medieval period. Each class is designed to cover a particular type of primary source, giving an overview and guidance both on how to use such sources, and on how to locate sources for particular topics. There will be information on the category of sources, on handbooks and source-collections, as well as hands-on experience analysing examples of the various kinds of sources.