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Primary Sources

This a introductory bibliography of some the primary sources which have information on the medieval fortification of England and Wales.

Strictly speaking most of these sources are edited transcripts and, often, translations of the original handwritten documents, which are precious and difficult to access. If access to the actual primary source is required this will almost certainly require a visit to an archive (Although some archive offer copying services). The most important archive is The National Archive, the UK government's official archive, at Kew near London. This also has information and databases of other archives holding primary sources.

With increasing numbers of texts being scanned and made available online it is now possible to do much research from the home or office. However for fully comprehensive and thorough research a trip to a good university library will still almost certainly be required or, better still for those for whom it is possible, a visit to The British Library.

Much of the information below is derived from the Medieval Genealogy1 website.


Reading medieval documents requires a knowledge of medieval latin, Norman French and Old English as well as an idea of scribally styles and the numerous abbreviations used.

Word Lists/Dictionaries

The Domesday Book

Despite several notices otherwise there is currently no direct freely available online versions of the Domesday Book (The electronic domesday dataset by John Palmer is said to be available and forms the bases to Open Domesday) . Copies, transcriptions and translations of various parts exist in piecemeal fashion in some editions of the Victoria County Histories.

Chancery and Exchequer Rolls

The many and various royal records of England and its dominions. Medieval Genealogy has a page giving a brief outlines of Public Records. It also has a page of 'Medieval source material on the internet' with a vast amount of well researched links to online scanned books with regularly maintain links. The bias is genealogical but that can also be said on the medieval writers themselves.

Scans of large number of the original Exchequer Rolls, held in the National Archives, are available online from Anglo-American Legal Tradition (University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library). For the purist historian these are invaluable but require a detailed knowledge of medieval latin and palaeography.

This is a selection of the most important primary sources for England and Wales. However, some royal business conducted in France concerned English castles and towns but is calendared in Gascon Rolls. This is less true for the various Irish calendars but thorough research would require examination of these. Work is currently ongoing to produce online versions of the Gascon Rolls. An online version of the Irish Rolls have recently been reconstructed from earlier calendars etc..

None Royal Charters, Deeds, Wills etc.

Contemporary Medieval Historical Accounts.

Contemporary Historical accounts were gerenally written by Churchmen, most of whom would have been relatives to military men, and focus on military and political events. Thus they tend to overemphasis the importance of military and political events. Generally accounts were also written by people attached to a particular party, usually the royalist group, although there was a reasonable tradition of 'truthful' reporting.

Antiquarian accounts

Antiquarian accounts of the 16th and early 17th centuries can be of considerable interest and some value if used with care;

This is a first attempt at this page and is deficient, certainly in comparison to the extensive sources enlisted at Medieval Genealogy which I strongly recomend using. First version dated 10 May 2010; Domesday links added 26 August 2010; Antiquarian links improved 9 April 2012; Palaeograpy links added 24 Sept 2012. Links to The Anglo-Norman Online Hub added 24 April 2013.

1 An amateur site by Chris Phillips who states he has "not aspired to academic standards of completeness or consistency in the material" although, in terms of information on royal rolls and online links to such sources, this site is by the far the most complete currently available. The site also has many useful features for all historians (the medieval calendars feature is very useful) and Chris Phillips's standards of clarity, accuracy and usability are certainly rather higher than some sites produced by less modest individuals and organisations who are academics. He is also clearly more interested in history than web design so the site is basic in web design with all the many advantages that come with such simplicity (Long lasting and stable urls, easy accessibility for those who need large text, clarity etc.)

2 A Project by Prof. G.R. Boynton and the University of Iowa Libraries. Unfortunately the care with which some volumes were scanned was poor, with pages incomplete and on a slant, making the OCR fail, so the search facility is not perfect.

3 The court scribes used a highly abbreviated Latin and Record Type was a printers typeface developed to reflect this abbreviated court hand; it has not, as yet, been made into a computer font. See Palaeography links for further information.

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