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HI 324 - Special Topics: Medieval England


This guide ties in with the class assignment to research and assess whether a particular king in medieval England satisfied the expectations of his people. Start your research by reading biographical entries in reference books, which will also point you to the best books and articles about individual monarchs. Next, search the library catalog for books about your chosen monarch and his time period, taking advantage of relevant subject headings. If you don't find enough books in the Geisel Library collection, search Worldcat to identify books that you can request through Interlibrary Loan, including primary source materials that shed light on contemporary opinions and attitudes during the king's reign. Finally, search the history and full-text journal databases for scholarly articles about your king and his subjects' appraisal of his performance.


Background and Reference

Reference materials can provide basic background information on historical figures such as the British monarchs being examined in this project. Reading biographical entries on your king will give you an overview of the important events of his reign, along with some insight into his personality and style of governance. Just as importantly, reference resources provide bibliographies at the ends of each entry or volume, which will point you to books and journal articles worth exploring. Many of these will be in our collection, but if the "perfect" book/article is not here at Geisel, don't hesitate to request it from another library through our Interlibrary Loan service. Articles often arrive within 3-5 days, while books generally arrive within 1-2 weeks.

A Bibliography of English History to 1485
     Ref DA130 .B5
Although this reference work is dated (1975), it can help you identify older books about your monarch and his times. Look for your king's name in the index, where the numbers indicate the entry numbers of relevant books in the bibliography. There are also sections listing chronicles written during each period of medieval England.

Columbia Companion to British History
     Ref DA34 .H64
Concise page-long discussions of every monarch, including some insight into popular perceptions of them.

Dictionary of National Biography
     Ref DA28 .D55
This classic multi-volume reference set contains lengthy biographical essays on every British monarch.

Dictionary of the Middle Ages
     Ref D114 .D5
Find 1-2 page entries on every medieval British monarch, each of which includes a list of suggested books for further reading. This 14-volume set also offers an authoritative examination of the Middle Ages as a whole, which could provide historical and cultural context to your research.

Medieval England: An Encyclopedia
     Ref DA129 .M43
One-page profiles of each king with bibliographies of further readings. This encyclopedia also contains topical A-Z entries on every facet of medieval England, including art, literature, commerce, religion, and culture.

Oxford Reference Online: History
This online collection enables you to conduct keyword searching on many of Oxford's reference works in the field of history, including the Oxford Companion to British History and The Kings and Queens of Britain.


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Find Books at Geisel Library

To find relevant books, you will probably want to try a combination of Subject and Keyword searching in the Geisel library catalog. Start by doing a Subject search on the name of your monarch, using the following form:

  • [Name of king], King of England

Richard I, King of England
Stephen, King of England

Next, try conducting Subject searches on the Subject Headings below that correspond to the time period of your monarch. This will find books about the people and events of those time periods, which will help you understand the context that shaped peoples' expectations of their king.

  • Great Britain - History - Anglo Saxon Period, 449-1066
  • Great Britain - History - Medieval Period, 1066-1455
  • Great Britain - History - Norman Period, 1066-1154
  • Great Britain - History - Angevin Period, 1154-1216
  • Great Britain - History - Plantagenets, 1154-1399
  • Great Britain - History - To 1066
  • Great Britain - Kings and Rulers - Biography
  • Great Britain - Politics and Government - 449-1066
  • Great Britain - Politics and Government - 1066-1154
  • Great Britain - Politics and Government - 1066-1485
  • Great Britain - Politics and Government - 1154-1399
  • England - Civilization - 1066-1485
  • England - Civilization - To 1066

Finally, search for medieval "chronicles" penned during the time period of your monarch. These primary-source documents offer first-hand accounts of events during the medieval period, often including the writer's impressions and opinions. To locate chronicles, search the following subject headings. There are also numerous chronicles and narratives in the 12-volume English Historical Documents (General Collection DA26 .E56); the first four volumes cover the Middle Ages.

  • Great Britain - History - Anglo Saxon Period - 449-1066 - Sources
  • Great Britain - History - Norman Period - 1066-1154 - Sources
  • Great Britain - History - To 1485 - Sources

You may also wish to perform Keyword searching on the name of your king, since this could unearth additional books in which the king's name appears in a chapter title. If you prefer to browse the shelves, the majority of books about medieval Britain are located in the call number range DA129-DA245.


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Find Books beyond Geisel Library

Although Geisel Library has an excellent history collection, you may not find sufficient information on your king and his society's expectations without taking advantage of Interlibrary Loan. By searching WorldCat (an online catalog encompassing the holdings of thousands of libraries worldwide), you can identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use.

For this project, the best strategy for exploring Worldcat is to perform Subject searches on the same Subject Headings you used in the Geisel Library catalog. See the subjects in the previous section for examples. You may wish to supplement this with Keyword searching on the name of your monarch.

Inside most Worldcat book records is a "Request ILL" link; to place an ILL request, all you need to do is:

  • Click on the Request ILL link
  • Input your name and contact information, including the S number on your student ID
  • Click the Submit button

The book will be available at our circulation desk within 1-2 weeks. You will be emailed when it arrives, and you can check it out for a specified borrowing period.


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Find Journal Articles

Articles in scholarly journals often provide greater detail than books, but typically with a much narrower focus. To start looking for scholarly articles about your king in an electronic database, search his name as a Keyword. If you retrieve too many results, use the Boolean AND to add an additional keyword such as expectation*, perception*, chronicle*, opinion, or performance.

Once you find relevant articles, examine the subject headings that have been assigned to them and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem most potentially fruitful. Often, there will be a defined subject heading for the king himself. Also, read the bibliographies of articles to identify additional sources worth tracking down.

If there is no link to the full text of the article, click on the WebBridge icon (when present) to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be delivered to your email inbox within about a week.

Academic Search Premier
A broad index providing abstracts and some full-text of scholarly and popular journals for a range of academic areas, including history.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index  (AHSearch)
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals, which include articles, bibliographies, editorials, letters, and reviews. Watch for the Saint Anselm College label in your search results, indicating that the journal is available at Geisel Library.

Historical Abstracts
This database provides abstracts to journal articles, book/media reviews, and dissertations with a focus on world history and culture (excluding the United States and Canada) from prehistoric times to the present. However, coverage of the Middle Ages is not very strong.

International Medieval Bibliography   (On Campus Only)
This searchable online version of the IMB indexes scholarly journals and conference proceedings in the interdisciplinary field of medieval studies. Bibliographic records are available for 4,500 periodicals. If you find a useful article, search for the journal's title in Journal Finder to see if it is available online or in the library's collection. If you find a book of interest, check the Geisel Library catalog or request it via ILL through Worldcat.

This bibliography pertaining to the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700) consists of citations for journal articles, books, and more. Click on "Search a Database", then on "Connect to ITER Bibliography." As suggested above in the IMB entry, if your searching unearths a relevant source, use Journal Finder, the library catalog, or Worldcat to track it down.

Search here for full-text articles from major journals in the humanities and social sciences, including a number of important history journals. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue.


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Selected Websites

These websites were handpicked for their relevance to your project. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your monarch's name in a search engine such as Google, but be sure to look for indications that the site's information is authoritative, objective and reliable.

Britannia History
This privately-produced website offers a scholarly historical narrative about Britain in the Middle Ages, along with biographies of every British monarch.

Internet Medieval History Sourcebook
This website of primary source documents includes numerous links to transcribed texts from medieval England, including some housed on other websites. The texts are organized chronologically by period, from Anglo-Saxon Britain through the Norman and Angevin periods. Included is the full text of William of Newburgh's History of England, among several other medieval chronicles.

Online and Medieval Classical Library
Hosted by the University of California at Berkeley, this website offers complete translations of two famous chronicles of medieval England: the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Life of King Alfred by Asser.


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Citing Sources

See the library's Citing Sources guide for resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


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