In Anglo-Saxon England, the redaction of charters began in the seventh century : between the first charters of the kingdom of Kent and the last diplomas of Harold II in 1066, a little more than 3000 documents have been preserved, including numerous forgeries.
Most of these charters are now online, through a nebula of institutional websites — the core being Trinity College, Cambridge and King’s College London. Other institutions, such as the Royal Historical Society or the British Academy, also participate to these projects, complementary as well as concurrential.
The final aim of this manifold activity is to offer to researchers the whole of the Anglo-Saxon diplomatic documentation (charters, diplomas, wills, writs) ante 1066, and numerous working tools — catalogues, database, glossaries, bibliographies — for the study of the documents.
It is easy to lose oneself in the labyrinth of the Anglo-Saxon diplomatic websites. It is therefore necessary to proceed with order and to visit a page according to what is precisely looked for. Four main types of websites can be distinguished :
general websites on charters and their study ;
websites which allow to proceed to the text of the charters ;
websites on specific aspects of the charters.
1. Charters and their study
1-1. Anglo-Saxon Charters
A very comprehensive site, which was long in construction. The database includes, notably, various elements of chronology, episcopal lists, a list of deposits, anthologies of expressions, etc. ; several catalogues and summaries of reference works and editions of sources ; and a bibliography of the publications for the years 1970-1990. A translation of the charters in modern English is promised, and there is a selection of links, some of which are listed below. It seems that this site is meant to migrate to the “Kemble” site, described below.
This website is named after John Mitchell Kemble (1807-1857), the main editor of Anglo-Saxons charters in the nineteenth century. It is in construction and includes mostly institutional informations on the Kemble project, as well as precisions on the scholars who worked on the Anglo-Saxon diplomatic corpus (J. M. Kemble in particular). “Kemble” being for the time not very complete, it is always useful to visit the site “Anglo-Saxon charters”, described above.
The catalogue of Peter Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters : An Annotated List and Bibliography, London, Royal Historical Society, 1968, has been an essential tool for a long time, for the study of Anglo-Saxon charters. For each charter, a notice lists the manuscripts, editions and translations and proposes a bibliography. The online version of the catalogue constitutes, today, the reference to quote Anglo-Saxon charters.
Online version, updated in 1999. It is now outmoded, even if numerous sites still point to it.
Online version, updated in 2008. It is possible to search by Sawyer number, kingdom, sovereign, date, manuscript, deposit and manuscript date. It does not always give access to the text of the charter, for which it is better to use one of the webistes listed below.
This site gives the text of all the charters, from the editions of J. M. Kemble (1839-1848) and W. de G. Birch (1885-1893). A search engine allows to find the charters by their number in the Sawyer catalogues or in the used editions, by sovereign or deposit. It is also possible to search by word or by radical.
This site offers to the internet user the most recent editions of the Anglo-Saxon charters, in the collection published since 1973 under the patronage of the British Academy. It does not order the charters by kingdom or by reign as in the ancient editions and the Regesta Regum Anglorum mentionned above, but takes up the principle of the collection and orders the charters by deposit : charters of the Rochester cathedral, of the Abingdon abbey, of the Winchester New Minster, etc. It gives the complete text of the charter, but not the critical apparatus, for which one must returns to the referent edition. Contrary to the previous site, this one does not allow a search by word or by radical, but the edition is more recent et often considered as the reference. Besides, the collection is uncompleted and all the charters are not presented.
3-3. ASChart KCL
This site, maintained by King’s College London, also offers the complete text of the charters (but beware : the used edition is not clearly mentionned). Its main particularity is its proposal of a diplomatic analysis of the charters, with coloured highlighted passages : invocation, proem, datation, place of promulgation, curses, etc. A diplomatic index allows to find the charters by type of formulation. Another future interest of this site will be direct links with PASE and LangScape, but at the moment, this functionality is not really finalized.
4. Specific websites
This site offers facsimiles of many original charters, with a short diplomatic commentary (generally from the Sawyer catalogue).
This site, developed by King’s College London, is a database of the limits of the domains and of the descriptions of territories mentionned in Anglo-Saxon charters. We can find toponyms, as well as the vernacular words used to describe a territory. It is a very efficient tool for the landscape history, but its use is difficult : the interactive maps are not practical. The site is in construction, and many texts are not yet online.
5. Integrated portals
A recent addition to this nebula, the « Anglo-Saxon Cluster », is an attempt to integrate all major academic websites with an Anglo-Saxon interest (including PASE) within a single searchable portal.
• The Aberdeen Bestiary Project
Origin : university of Aberdeen (Wales).
Authors : Michael Arnott et Ian Beevan.
This site is dedicated to an online version of the manuscript Aberdeen University Library MS 24 (c. 1200), a bestiary, with a transcription, a translation and a commentary. An history of the manuscript (with a codicological description), an introduction on bestiaries and a bibliography are also available.
• The Cambridge Illuminations
Origin : University of Cambridge and FitzWilliam Museum.
This site presents a virtual exhibition of 65 illuminated manuscripts of the Cambridge University and the FitzWilliam Museum, classified by themes, artists and patrons. The reproductions are very good, but there is a lack of explanation.
• The Edward IV Roll
Origin : Free Library of Philadelphia (United States).
This rubric of the website of the Philadelphia Library presents the great genealogical roll of the English royal family made after the victory of Edward IV of York in 1461. There is also a contextual commentary and a bibliography.
• The Macclesfield Psalter
Origin : FitzWilliam Museum.
This is an introduction to the Macclesfield Psalter, a well-known manuscript of the first half of the 14th century (East Anglia). It presents the history of the manuscript and many reproductions, but there is no bibliography.
• Medieval Manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine (Maryland, Etats-Unis)
Origin : National Library of Medicine (Maryland, United States).
The site presents the English medieval manuscripts of the National Library of Medicine (mostly from the 12th century), preceded by an introduction on the history of medicine in England. The reproductions are rather numerous, but once again, there is no bibliography.
• Production and Use of English Manuscripts, 1066 to 1220
Origine: University of Leicester, University of Leeds.
Very detailled catalogue of the manuscrits containing english between 1060 and 1220. The website, conceived like an e-book according its authors, also includes a useful and important contextualisation, as well as a bibliography.
• Archaeological Data Service
Origin : University of York, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The ADS is at once a portal and a ressources site. It gathers archeological datas on the British Isles and redirects towards many other projects. The database can by searched by keywords or by clicking directly on a map.
The ADS is also home to the records of some ten journals, including
Medieval Archaeology (today Medieval Britain and Irland). There are also many publications and guides for the presentation and the recording of datas, some links, etc.
• Avalon Project
Origin : Yale Law School.
This website presents a compendium of online sources on “the law, the history and the diplomacy” from the Antiquity to the present time. As a matter of fact, we find essentially legal, governmental and diplomatical sources, translated in modern English. Some are medieval (not only in English), for instance the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Magna Carta, the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum or the Statute of Labourers. It is mostly convenient for the english version, even if the translations are from 1896 (E. F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, Londres, 1896). There is no critical apparatus.
• Bardic Poetry Database
Origin: Trinity College, Dublin.
Author: Katherine Simms.
Database on bardic poetry. Search is possible by incipit, character, manuscript, meter, class, etc. Text of the poems is available for print versions.
• British History Online
Origine : Institute of Historical Research et History of Parliament Trust (Londres).
BHO makes available many translated sources on medieval and modern history of the British Isles - chronics, administrative records, accounts, maps - from scholarly editions. The main themes are local history, historical geography, urban history, parliamentary history and ecclesiastical history. The research criteria are geographical, chronological and typological. Each source has a short descriptive notice.
• Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture
Origine : Université de Durham.
This site presents a recension project of all the anglo-saxon sculptures (7th-11th centuries) by a team of archeologists from the University of Durham. This project is not finished yet, but it is well advanced. We can visualize many sculptures, classified by shire, consult a “Grammar of Anglo-Saxon Ornament” and search the database. Nevertheless, this database is not entirely in free access.
• The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland
Origin : Project sustained by the British Academy, the H. Moore Fundation, the Heritage Council of Ireland, the Courtauld Institute of Art et the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which the coordinator.
This project wants to list all the British and Irish places - especially the churches - which have medieval sculptures. There is a detailed description of the sites and their sculptures, classified by shires. There are also contextual maps and glossaries. The project is not finished yet.
• Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevii
Origin : Project run by the British Academy et the Courtauld Institute (London).
The Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevii is a visual and informative database on the medieval stained glass of the English churches, searchable by location. The datas on the locations are very detailed. On the other hand, there is not thematical description.
• Early Irish Glossaries Database
Origin: University of Cambridge.
Authors: P. Russell, S. Arbuthnot et P. Moran.
It is in fact an electronic edition of three glossaries, compiled from the 8th century, with comments, translations and biblioographies.
• Exeter Cathedral Keystones and Carvings. A Catalogue Raisonné of the medieval interior sculptures and its polychromy
Origin: University of Exeter.
Authors: A.K. Kenny and A.C. Hulbert.
Online catalogue of figurative sculptures inside the Exeter Cathedral, with an introduction, explanatory records, reproductions and a bibliography. Possibilities of browsing are numerous, notably from the cathedral map.
• History in Deed
Origin : Harvard Law School.
The site introduces 157 English charters (1100-1600) from the Harvard Law School Library. Unfortunately, the charters themselves are not available online, but there are summaries and a well-provided commentary. The classification is thematic.
• Irish Annals
Origin: Trinity College, Dublin.
Author: D. McCarthy
Synchronised chronology of Irish annals, with entries, made by Dan McCarthy. Available online or in download in word format.
• Mapping Death. People, Boundaries and Territories in Medieval Ireland, 1st-8th centuries A.D.
Heritage Council, Irish National Strategic Archaeological Research Programm (INSTAR) (dir. Dr. Bhreathnach).
Database on irish burial sites, offering archaeological, onomastic, statistical, mapping and historical data. Besides a search engine with numerous criteria, browsing is possible by list or by an interactive map.
• Medieval Imaginations : literature and visual culture in the Middle Ages
Origin : collaboration between the English faculty and the CARET (Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies) of the University of Cambridge.
This project aims to the creation of an iconographical database in relation with textual sources - mysteries. At the moment, there is a selection of sequences and of several hundred images (miniatures, sculptures, etc.) The reproduction are good and there is a short description of the manuscripts. The search is thematic. We find also a timeline, a list of keywords and links to the main collections of sources. This site is very interesting (because of its thinking about the crossing of the sources) but also pleasant.
• Medieval Petitions
Origin : National Archives ; York University, Arts and Humanities Research Council.
This site allows to consult 17000 facsimiles of petitions from the reign of Henri III (1207-1272) to the reign of Jacques I (1566-1625), thanks to a project developed by the University of York and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is possible to search by person, place, occupation or date. A precise description is given, but each petition must be downloaded by mail.
• Medieval Welsh Law (Cyfraith Hywel)
Origin: University of Wales.
Authors: S. E. Roberts and B. Jones
This website presents the content of 41 manuscripts of welsh law codes in the form of a database. Manuscripts are not digitized. We can find a rich introduction on judicial system, the content of the laws and an important bibliography. However, browsing is not easy for the neophyte in medieval welsh law.
• A Repertorium of Middle English Prose Sermons
Origin : project directed by Veronica O’Mara (University of Hull) supported by the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council).
This site presents a part of the project of the repertory of medieval English sermons, published by Brepols in 2007. It contains some presentations of sermons, with a description of the manuscripts, an index…
• Database of Dedications to Saints in Medieval Scotland
Origin: University of Edinburgh.
Database established between 2004 and 2007, including 11911 records of scottish dedications, with a search by multiple criteria. An exploration via an interactive map is announced, mais the link did not function the day of the visit. The database can also be downloaded for analysis.
• Gazetteer of markets and fairs in England and Wales to 1516
Origin : Center for Metropolitan History, université de Londres.
Author : S. Letters.
The Gazetter is a catalogue of English and Welsh markets and fairs with an introduction and a glossary. It is regularly updated.
• The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Project
Origin : University of Manchester (dir. prof. Gale R. Owen-Crocker).
Lexical database on textile and clothes in all the medieval languages of the British Isles (old and middle english, welsh, irish, anglo-french, latin, scandinavian). There are also a certain amount of informations on the history of textile and a bibliography.
• LAEME (A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English)
Origin : University of Edinburgh.
Interactive atlas which “aims to present information about the variation in space and time of linguistic forms found in early Middle English texts”, from an impressive corpus of texts (or long extracts of texts) between ca. 1150 and 1325. The use of the LAEME is rather complex — it is a great linguistic enterprise — and designed mainly for specialists.
• Mapping Medieval Chester.
Origin : Swansea University, Queen’s University Belfast, Center for Computing in the Humanities (King’s College, London).
The aim of this project is to build an interactive map of Chester in the Middle Ages, linked to other sources, textual, iconographic…
The results are not yet online but the reasoning is well explained, in a very interesting way. There are also much informations on the historical context.
• Monastic Wales
Origin: University of Wales Trinity St David, Universitat de Lleida (dir. J. Burton and K. Stöber]
A rich database on welsh religious houses (60 sites), including archaeological and historical informations. Besides a search engine, browsing offers numerous possibilities - by site, order, character…
• People of medieval Scotland: 1093-1314
Origin: King’s College, London, University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, University of Lancaster, soutenus par l’AHRC.
This impressive prosopographical database (about 20000 individuals) takes a census of the Scottish mentionned in 8600 archival records between 1093 and 1314, as well as the institutions and the places. Tools are also proposed to explore the connexions of an individual or the nets of transactions (only with Firefox, Chrome and Safari). The database was built on two projects Paradox of medieval Scotland and The Breaking of Britain, this last yet active.
• Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF)
Origin: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, National Museums Scotland, Historical Scotland.
ScARF is a website of collaborative publications on scottish history (a sort of institutional wiki), mainly based on archaeological sources. For each period, there are detailed synthesis (that one can download), as well as bibliographies.
• The Soldier in late medieval England
Origin: ICMA Centre, University of Reading, University of Southampton, soutenus par l’AHRC.
This database, developed by Adrian Bell (Reading) and Ann Curry (Southampton), includes informations on men of arms of the 14th and 15th. There is a search by multiple criteria. We can also find profiles on important individuals, on certain sources, on institutions, etc.
• Victoria County History
Origine : Institute of Historical Research (Londres)
The Victoria County History is a very old project of English local history, begun in 1899 and always under construction. The volumes are classified by shire and present general introductions (archaeology, political, religious, social, economic) for each shire and topographical chapters, town by town and village by village. Only three counties have never been studied by the VCH. Some volumes are freely available through the portal British History on Line, but there is no list of these. It is necessary to open the interactive map of England on the homepage, to click on the desired shire and to look for the mention "View this book on line".