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Image from The Babees' Book: Medieval Manners for the Young by Edith Rickert (London, Chatto and Windus; New York, Duffield & co., 1923). From CRL collections.
Image from The Babees' Book: Medieval Manners for the Young by Edith Rickert (London, Chatto and Windus; New York, Duffield & co., 1923). From CRL collections.


The Middle Ages, or the medieval period, generally refers to the era 400 to 1500 C.E. in western Europe and the British Isles. These territories formed the Holy Roman Empire, when Christianity emerged as the dominant tradition with cultural roots stemming from ancient Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions. The papacy provided a unifying institutional and political framework. Contact with an expanding Islamic world to the south and east along with unconverted Scandinavian and Germanic cultures to the north are other defining characteristics of medieval culture.  

Recent Areas of Scholarly Interest

Scholarship on the Middle Ages has provided an increasingly complex and nuanced picture of medieval culture, particularly of the early Middle Ages. In recent decades, advances in technology have brought the era more vividly into focus with newly digitized collections available in electronic databases. These databases enable scholars to interrogate large textual corpora of source material such as the Patrologia Latina and Corpus Christianorum in new ways.

The heretofore more narrow focus on the educated elite in western Europe under Roman Christendom has expanded to include other geographic regions, laymen and women, and a more diverse span of human experience. Medieval archaeology and sophisticated analyses of documentary and narrative sources have opened up the exploration of previously neglected or disregarded areas: peasants, family, women, and children, along with the rural and urban contexts in which most medieval people lived. 


Many medieval studies programs established in the 1970s and ’80s adopt multidisciplinary approaches. More recently, medieval studies, like the humanities overall, have faced declining support. Large amounts of primary source materials remain unfilmed or unscanned, making it necessary for scholars to travel to the archives where they are held. Medievalists are concerned about the perception, found even among academics, that history in general (let alone the Middle Ages) is irrelevant in a technologically oriented society. While answers to new questions and fresh answers to longstanding questions have been made possible through new technologies, substantial areas of historical understanding continue to be affected by scarcity in resources. The lives, experiences, and contributions of unlettered or marginalized individuals and communities continue to pose a vital challenge for recovery.


Chris Africa, History & Social Sciences Bibliographer, University of Iowa Libraries

Jane Marie Pinzino, Humanities Librarian, Florida State University Libraries

CRL Collections

    Primary sources for medieval studies have typically consisted of manuscripts and incunabula housed in special collections, microform series containing voluminous manuscript collections, as well as print facsimile and standard critical editions of classic works. CRL’s medieval resources are primarily Western European and are a result of either deposit or the use of various collection programs CRL offers.  Examples of acquisitions include the set of microfiche Arabic Manuscripts in the British Library - Hadith Kalam from the Purchase Proposal Program, and the microfilm set Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts of St. John’s College, Oxford: manuscripts dating from the 10th century to the 16th century through the Shared Purchase Program. 

    Doctoral dissertations, while not primary sources, offer vital resources for medieval studies. CRL holds more than 800,000 foreign doctoral dissertations from universities outside the U.S. and Canada. These dissertations provide North American researchers with the most current analyses from the European scholarly community. Access to European dissertations puts the North American medievalist in close dialogue with a vigorous community of scholarly inquiry into the Middle Ages in the contemporary U.K., France, Italy, Germany, and beyond. CRL’s collection of dissertations are included in the main catalog, and can be searched under the “Dissertations” tab on the online catalog page. A keyword search on “medieval” or “mediaeval” retrieves almost 1,000 records. Current acquisitions of dissertations focus on purchasing dissertations through the Demand Purchase Program.

    Church Archives

    Church Court Records of Ely
    Catholic Church. Diocese of Ely (England). Consistory Court
    Harvester Microform

    Series 1 of the set Ecclesiastical Authority in England reproduces original manuscripts held at Cambridge University Library. Contains the main sequence of Instance Act Books (13741640), covering cases between parties, particularly marriage and tithe cases. Part 2 contains the Office Act Books (14691639), which treat the spiritual and moral welfare of both clergy and laity. This is supplemented by a collection of Formularies, dealing with matters as diverse as sequestrations, commissions of offices, proceedings against lollards, inquisitions, and dispensations

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Episcopal Registers
    Harvester Microform

    This set includes reproductions of original manuscripts of bishops’ registers, recording administrative acts of bishops and authorities. CRL holds eight parts of the set, which are also separately cataloged:

    • pt. 1. Registers of the Archbishops of York, 1215–1650 [catalog record]
    • pt. 2. Registers of the Bishops of Lincoln, 1209–1663 [catalog record]
    • pt. 3. Registers of the Bishops of Coventry and Lichfield, 1295–1632; Carlisle, 1292–1656; Chester, 1541–1652; and Durham, 1283–1672 [catalog record]
    • pt. 4. Registers of the Bishops of Salisbury, 1297–1689 [catalog record]
    • pt. 5. Registers of the Bishops of London, 1304–1660  [catalog record]
    • pt. 6. Registers of Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury,1284–1661  [catalog record]
    • pt. 7. Registers of the Bishops of Ely, 1337-1619; Oxford, 1592–1663; and Wales,1389–1705 [catalog record]
    • pt. 8. Registers of the Bishops of Chichester, 1396-1675; Gloucester, 1541–1681; and Rochester, 1319–1683 [catalog record]
    Catalog Record · Guide
    Registers of the Archbishops of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace Library
    World Microfilms
    • 1. MS 1212: 13th cent. cartulary of the Archbishopric of Canterbury (c. 615–1290)
    • 2. John Pecham, 1279–92; Robert Winchelsey, 1294–1313
    • 3. Walter Reynolds, 1313–27; Simon Inslip, 1349–66
    • 4. Simon Langham, 1366–68; William Whittlesey, 1368–74; Simon Sudbury, 1375–81
    • 5. William Courtenay, 1381–96
    • 6. Thomas Arundel, 1396–1414
    • 7–8. Henry Chichele, 1414–43, vols. 1–2
    • 9. John Stafford, 1443–52; John Kompe, 1452–54; Thomas Bourgchier, 1454–86
    • 10. John Morton, 1486–1500; Henry Deane, 1501–03
    • 11. William Warham, 1503–32
    • 12. Thomas Cranmer, 1532–55; Reginald Pole, 1555–58
    • 13. Matthew Parker, 1559–75
    • 14. Edmund Grindal, 1576–83
    • 15–16. John Whitgift, 1583–1604, vols. 1–3
    • 17. Richard Bancroft, 1604–10
    • 18–19. George Abbott, 1611–33, vols. 1–3
    • 20. William Laud, 1633–45
    Catalog Record


    Books Printed in the Low Countries before 1601
    General Microfilm Company

    This set includes microfilm copies of books printed in Belgium and the Netherlands and books printed in Flemish or Dutch in other countries before 1601. Partially based on Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in the Netherlands and Belgium and of Dutch and Flemish Books Printed in other Countries from 1470 to 1600, Now in the British Museum. Publisher's announcement: “Titles of basic importance in all fields are selected from, though not restricted to, this source.”

    Catalog Record
    Early English Books, 1475–1640: Selected from Pollard and Redgrave’s Short-title Catalogue
    University Microfilms International

    GUIDE: Early English Books, 1475–1640: selected from Pollard and Redgrave’s Short-title catalogue: A Guide to.... CRL owns the first 56 units of this microfilm set of Pollard’s and Redgrave’s titles. Individual title access is through the guide; only a few of the titles are analyzed in CRL’s catalog.

    Catalog Record
    French Books before 1601
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: Short-title catalogue of books printed in France and of French books printed in other countries now in the British Museum. This microfilm set is based on the British Library’s bibliography.  

    Catalog Record · Guide
    German Books before 1601
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: Short-title catalogue of books printed in the German-speaking countries and German books printed in other countries from 1455 to 1600, now in the British Museum. This microfilm set includes a selection of German books on all subjects published before 1601. The initial selection is based on the Short-title Catalogue, but also includes works in the Bodleian, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, and other sources. 

    Catalog Record
    Hispanic Culture Series
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: This series, usually called the Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American books before 1601, is based on the bibliographies listed below:

    • Penney, Clara Louise, ed. List of Books Printed before 1601 in the Library of the Hispanic Society of America.
    • Thomas, Henry. Short-title Catalogues of Spanish, Spanish-American and Portuguese Books Printed before 1601 in the British Museum.
    • Simon Diaz, Jose. Bibliographia de la Literatura Hispanica. 
    Catalog Record
    Incunabula: The Printing Revolution in Europe 1455–1500
    Primary Source Microfilm

    CRL has the following units of this set: Units 46–47, German vernacular literature; Units 54–55, Iberian printing; Units 56–59, 67, 78–79, 83, Bibles & commentaries; Units 70–72, 75, Printing in Florence; and Units 76–77, Printing in Venice. 

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Italian Books before 1601
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: Short-title catalogue of books printed in Italy and of Italian books printed in other countries from 1465 to 1600, now in the British Museum. This set reproduces 15th- and 16th-century books in all subject areas. The initial selection for the microfilm set is based on the Short-title Catalogue, but titles from other collections also are included.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Medina’s Biblioteca Hispano-Americana, 1493–1810
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: Medina, Jose Toribio. Biblioteca Hispano-Americana, 1493–1810. This set contains microfilm copies of titles in Medina’s bibliography and represents a history of the Spanish-speaking peoples of the western hemisphere. Most individual titles are not cataloged at CRL.

    Catalog Record
    Scandinavian Culture Series
    General Microfilm Company

    GUIDE: This is a microfilm set of a selection of Scandinavian books printed before 1700, based on the bibliographies below:

    • Collijn, Isak. Sveriges bibliografi intill are 1600.
    • Nielsen, Lauritz M. Dansk bibliografi, 1482–1550, 1551–1600, med saerligt hensyn til dansk bogtrykkerkunsts historie.
    • Bruun, Chr. V. Bibliotheca danica, 1482–1830.
    • Pettersen, Hjalmar Marius. Bibliotheca norvegica, 1643–1813.
    • Collijn, Isak. Sveriges bibliografi, 1600–talet.
    Catalog Record


    Ancient Correspondence, 1175–1538
    Harvester Microform

    GUIDE: List of ancient correspondence of the Chancery and Exchequer preserved in the Public Record Office. List and Index Society, v. 15. This set contains more than 12,400 individual documents spanning the reigns of King John to King Henry VII and includes: state papers; correspondence of kings, bishops, Popes, knights, noblemen, royal servants, and Lord Chancellors; and medieval and other records. Topics covered by this collection include: the diplomatic relations between Britain and France; the political struggles between the king and barons; ecclesiastical elections; sieging of castles; packing of wool; trading; escapes from imprisonment; protection of lepers; enclosures; keeping of servants and falcons; and even the slowness of letters in transit. It is a useful source for the study of economic, military, diplomatic, ecclesiastical, social, and literary history. The originals are part of the records of the PRO Special Collections (PRO S.C. 1/1-64).

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Anglo-Saxon & Mediaeval Manuscript Collection
    Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
    World Microfilms
    Catalog Record
    Archivio del Catasto
    Archivio di Stato di Firenze
    University Microfilms International
    1420, 1427

    This microfilm set of the 1427 survey of Florence is complete, except for areas of Pistoia, Pisa, and Arezzo. The census includes volumes on the technical regulations and laws concerning the Catasto. Title on container labels: “Florence census 1420, 1427.”

    Catalog Record · Guide
    British Literary Manuscripts from the British Library, London. Series 3, the Medieval Manuscripts to c. 1500
    British Library. Dept. of Manuscripts
    Harvester Microform
    –c. 1500

    GUIDE: British literary manuscripts from the British Library: an inventory to parts one and two of the Harvester microform collection, based on the Sloane and additional manuscripts series. This set includes material from the Sloane collection. Entries from the British Library’s catalogs of manuscripts precede each reel. Prominent works include four texts of The Canterbury Tales (Sloane 1685, 1686; Add. MSS. 5140, 35286), The Legende of Good Women (Add. MS. 12044), and Troilus and Cresseide (Add. MS. 12044), as well as a rich cache of religious and devotional material. CRL owns Parts 1–2 of this series.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    British Manuscripts Project
    Library of Congress
    Library of Congress

    A joint project of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Library of Congress, the collection consists of reproductions of nearly five million pages of manuscripts and, in a few instances, rare printed materials found in some of the major public and private collections of England and Wales. American scholars in many fields of knowledge selected the works for their intrinsic importance to learned studies. The collection spans several centuries; it includes many types of works (letters, treaties, public records, grants, papal indulgences, speeches, stories, poems, pedigrees, deeds, tracts, court cases, treasurer's accounts, journals, petitions, homilies, and commentaries), and covers a wide range of subjects (politics, religion, philosophy, literature, science, history), in many languages (English, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Welsh, French, etc.). This collection contains many important collections from the British Museum as well as the Public Record Office. CRL holds limited reels of this collection, some of which are cataloged under separate headings. The following is a short checklist of items, with the listing of the depository, LC Reel number, and corresponding BMP item numbers (these are in numerical sequence and may not match the order of LC Reel numbers). Titles can be checked through the checklist or via the online version at the University of Michigan.

    • Bath, Marquises of. Library, Longleat., Coventry Papers LC Reels: Bath 1–65 BMP no.: 1–79 See also Coventry Papers
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Appendix LC Reels: BMab 349, 380 BMP No.: 687, 692–693
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Caligula LC Reels: BMab 174 B, 179, 455 BMP No.: 710, 712, 715, 720
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Galba LC Reels: BMab 282 BMP No.: 898–899
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Julius LC Reels: BMab 104, 189 BMP No.: 926, 933, 941, 964, 967
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Nero LC Reels: BMab 278, 380 BMP No.: A27, A64
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Titus LC Reels: BMab 104, 345, 346, 348, 349, 350, 373, 380 BMP No.: A143, A145, A147, A156–157, A160, A179, A201, A203–204
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Tiberius LC Reels: BMab 189 BMP No.: A107
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Vespasian LC Reels: BMab 278, 281, 307, 308, 309, 310, 312 BMP No.: A242, A245, A251–258, A309, A311, A313
    • British Museum. Dept. of Manuscripts, Cotton Vitellius LC Reels: BMab 314 BMP No.: A351, A355
    • Cambridge University. Library LC Reels: Camb 231–232 BMP No.: B571–580
    • Cambridge University. Pembroke College LC Reels: Camb 162 BMP No.: C694, C698, C741,
    • Cambridge University. Trinity College LC Reels: Camb 386 BMP No.: C957–959, D95–97
    • Downshire, Marquesses of. Library. Trumbull mss. Papers of William Trumbull, the Elder LC Reels: Camb 203–205, 216–229 BMP No.: D103, D125–130, D153–186
    • (Miscellaneous Collections) Singer, Dorothea (Waley), Bibliography (#4701120) LC Reels: Misc 16–36 BMP No.: F214–216
    • Northumberland, Dukes of. Library (Alnwick Castle)., Manuscripts LC Reels: Aln 1, 2, 6, 7, 47, 54, 55 BMP no.: F233–238, F247–251, F315, F320–323, F333, F360, F402–404, F415, F449, F476-478
    • Northumberland, Dukes of. Library (Syon House) LC Reels: Aln 93, 104, 106, 107, 112 BMP no.: F500–504, F576–579, F606–612, F646–683, F850, F910, F912–916, F939, F941-949
    • Oxford University. Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. LC Reels: Oxf 30, 34 BMP No.: G457, G460, G468, G474, G476, G478, G488–489, G496, G500, G503–505
    • Oxford University. Bodleian Library, Bodley LC Reels: Oxf 30 BMP No.: G88
    • Oxford University. Bodleian Library, Tanner LC Reels: Oxf 99, 141, 144, See Also Tanner Manuscripts
    • Oxford University. Bodleian Library, Rawlinson LC Reels: Oxf 226–228, 231–240, 243–244, 246–252, 266 See also Rawlinson Manuscripts
    • Penshurst. De l'Isle and Dudley, Barons of. Library. Penshurst Muniments LC Reels: Camb 752, 773, 786 BMP No.: H748–754, H938–940, J386–387, 389–429
    • Great Britain. Public Record Office., War Office. Amherst Papers LC Reels: PRO 239–411 BMP No.: E425–678 See also Amherst Papers

    GUIDE: British Manuscripts Project: A Checklist of Microfilms Prepared in England and Wales for the American Council of Learned Societies (1941–45).

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Chronicles and Documents of Medieval England, c. 1150–1500, from Cambridge University Library
    Harvester Microform

    Manuscripts, including chronicles, geneologies, letters, and various documents chiefly related to land, law, politics, and religion in England. CRL owns part 1 (manuscripts Dd–Gg) and 2 (manuscripts Hh–Oo and additional works).

    Catalog Record
    Husting Rolls of Deeds and Wills, 1252–1485

    This set contains transcripts of more than 22,600 deeds and testaments disposing of real property from the Court of Husting, the principal court of medieval London. The deeds specify details of the property, names of owners and tenants, and other information about individual properties, streets, markets, and other features of London.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Lincoln Cathedral Library, the Mediaeval Manuscript Collection
    Lincoln Cathedral Library
    World Microfilms Publications
    Catalog Record · Guide
    Mediaeval and Renaissance Manuscript Collections at Oxford Colleges
    World Microfilms Publications

    CRL owns sections IV (law) and V (medical & natural sciences). Section IV contains the Decretals of Gregory IX and of Gratian, Justinian's Works, as well as the works of many Popes (Innocent IV, Boniface VIII etc.). Section V includes such works from the Christ Church collection as the Lectio Astronomica (1703) and a 17th-century Euclides Elementum. Those from New College include works by Hippocrates, Pliny, Ptolemy, Aristos, Galen, Averroes, and Roger Bacon.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Medieval Literary and Historical Manuscripts in the Cotton Collection, British Library, London
    Cotton, Robert, Sir, 1571–1631; British Library. Dept. of Manuscripts
    Harvester Microform

    This set has seven parts:

    • Pt. 1: Cotton Julius-Cotton Tiberius
    • Pt. 2: Cotton Caligula-Cotton Claudius
    • Pt. 3: Cotton Nero-Cotton Otho
    • Pt. 4: Cotton Vitellius
    • Pt. 5: Cotton Vespasian
    • Pt. 6: Cotton Titus
    • Pt. 7: Cotton Domitian, Cotton Cleopatra, Cotton Faustina, and Appendix
    Catalog Record · Guide
    Property and Privilege in Medieval and Early Modern England and Wales
    Harvester Microform

    CRL has the following parts:

    • Pt. 1: Arundel-Cotton Nero
    • Pt. 2: Cotton Otho-Cotton Roll
    • Pt. 3: Egerton-Lansdowne 
    • Pt. 4: Royal-Add. Roll
    Catalog Record · Guide
    Rawlinson Manuscript Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 1253–1753
    Rawlinson, Richard, 1690–1755; Bodleian Library
    Harvester Microform

    CRL holds parts 1–4, selected volumes in the Rawlinson A; parts 5–6, selected volumes in the Rawlinson B; and part 7, selected volumes in the Rawlinson C collections. The bulk of the microfilm edition is dated c.1540 to c.1680, although the Rawlinson manuscript collection contains letters, papers, and records from 1253 to 1753. The microfilm edition is selective and excludes most volumes concerning the history of continental Europe or other parts of the World or British history if of less significance for public affairs. Most of the Thurloe Manuscripts (Rawlinson A Volumes 1–67) have been omitted. The set is also known as Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Manuscripts from the Rawlinson Collection. A finding aid is at beginning of each reel.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    The Repertories of the Court of Aldermen, 1495–1835, from the Corporation of London Record Office
    Corporation of London. Court of Aldermen.
    Harvester Microform

    Offered as part of the set “Making of Modern London,” the repertories of the Court of Aldermen—one of the two assemblies responsible for administering London—give a detailed record of London and its people over four centuries. The records describe local administrative issues (police, water supply, building codes, citizenship) and related matters. To date, only the repertories from 1495 to 1692 have been produced.

    Catalog Record · Guide
    Trinity College, Cambridge Library, the Mediaeval Manuscript Collection
    Trinity College (University of Cambridge) Library
    World Microfilms

    The set is issued in several sections and parts, which are also cataloged separately:

    In addition to the digitized guide below, see the searchable catalogue online at Trinity College.

    Catalog Record · Guide

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