The Amateur Academic’s Medieval Education

Stained GlassMedieval culture is definitely in vogue. From Game of Thrones to The Lord of the Rings, swords, kings, castles, myths, wizards, and damsels have once again entered the popular imagination. Increasingly, fans of the fictionalized accounts of medieval life are starting to study proper medieval history. Our guide is full of fascinating resources that will serve as a great launching point for any medieval education.

Best Books on Medieval History

The Cambridge Medieval History by J.B.Bury spans eight volumes and is considered the most comprehensive history of the medieval period.

Viking culture, history and achievement is chronicled in A History of the Vikings by G. Jones, who uses maps and drawings to illustrate the true story of these famed Norsemen.

In Medieval Europe: A Short History, 10th ed. by C. Hollister and J. Bennet, photos, maps, a glossary and timelines round out this basic, yet comprehensive text book.

Before there was jihad, European Christians in the medieval period engaged in a series of holy wars called the Crusades. In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades, editor J. Riley-Smith comprehensively presents these religious wars.

The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe, edited by G. Holmes, makes learning fun with numerous photos, maps and full-color plates, as well as a full survey of 1,000 years of medieval history.

Many scholars date the end of medieval times to the fall of Constantinople. In 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, R. Crowley (Chicago, Illinois) comprehensively covers this key event in western civilization.

Best Medieval Essays, Source Materials and Research

The Illinois Medieval Association offered peer-reviewedEssays in Medieval Studies, and after 2001, made them available at Johns Hopkins University’s Project Muse located in Baltimore, Maryland.
TheInternet Medieval Sourcebook at Fordham University has a variety of source materials including maps, information on the lives of the saints, historical legal sources and selected materials on the Carolingians, the Crusades, the Papacy, Iberia and the Medieval Church.

The Manchester University Press provides itsMedievalportal to help students and researchers find medieval online source material. Specific subject areas include Charlemagne, the Black Death, the Magna Carta and the Hundred Years War.

Students at all levels can find peer-reviewed articles and features from multiple disciplines atpostmedieval, and theInstitute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds provides an annotated list of online medieval resources.

Best Medieval Blogs, Interactive Sites and Other Online Resources

At theGough Map, medieval scholars and novices alike can search an interactive, online version of one of the earliest maps to show Britain in its geographically recognizable form. The site also provides a blog and contextual material.

The Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University offers two helpful electronic resources: one on medieval fine arts and the other, an introduction to Old English. At Medieval Map, students can mark historical changes during the medieval period with this fun, interactive site.

Several online dictionaries are available to help with medieval languages. The Germanic Lexicon Project offers an Anglo-Saxon Dictionary as well as an Icelandic-English Dictionary. The classically challenged can find help with theLatin-to-English, English-to-Latin Dictionary.

Students can access medieval manuscripts at theDigital Scriptorium, sponsored in part by the University of California Berkely, as well as theCatalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts at UCLA in Los Angeles, CA.

Literature from and about the Medieval Period

Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame describes medieval life through a discussion of its basic archetypes, including the King, the Monk, the Peasant and the Knight.

The epitome of Norse culture in medieval times,Beowulf details the hero’s epic battle with the people-eating monster, Grendel. Michael Crichton adapted this tale in the Eaters of the Dead by incorporating the true story of an Islamic traveler.

At one end of the most famous of medieval stories liesThe Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer’s amusing story of a typical medieval pilgrimage. At the other end Dante Alighieri’sThe Divine Comedy where the author describes in vivid, gory detail his trip through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

Fans of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series will recognize devices, themes and characters from The Once and Future King. T.H.White’s retelling of the legends of King Arthur is funny, delightful, whimsical, heartfelt, magical and tragic.

Whether you choose a formal class or to just pick it up on your own, it has never been easier to properly study medieval history. Take advantage of the wealth of books, articles, manuscripts, essays and maps and learn something about this truly interesting period in human civilzation.