Online Sources for Medieval History
Historical sources becomes far more accessible when they can be easily discovered online in a readable and accurate format. There are now many public-domain texts that have been made available through resources such as Archive.org. By editing these for repositories such as Project Gutenberg and Wikisource, we can make these available in a corrected format that facilitates online reading or printing, and allows the text to be reused for research purposes. I frequently make electronic editions of public-domain books to support my teaching. I archive corrected versions of these online wherever possible, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
This also provides the opportunity for thinking about the possibilities for reading in a digital format, and what needs to be recorded to present historical texts online in a professional manner. While for critical editions I normally use the XML-based guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative, Project Gutenberg is focused around reStructuredText, which is much simpler but too limiting for many purposes. There is also serious potential for the use of Wikisource among historians, since it provides the key ability to link a text to a facsimile.
I have made corrected electronic versions of the following texts:
- Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, trans. Leonard Doyle (Project Gutenberg; source on GitHub): This work is read in almost every class covering early medieval history, but often in a painfully archaic form. The online edition of Doyle’s text is a stopgap measure: I am now working on a new translation of the text with notes.
- Early Lives of Charlemagne by Eginhard and the Monk of St Gall, trans. A.J. Grant (Project Gutenberg; source on GitHub): Einhard’s Vita Karoli is one of the most important sources for the Carolingians: Grant’s translation is an immense improvement over that of Turner that has been widely distributed online.
- Geoffrey Bache Smith, A Spring Harvest, ed. J.R.R. Tolkien (Project Gutenberg; source on GitHub): A collection of poetry from the First World War, useful for studying the influence of medievalism in this period.
- John of Damascus, On Holy Images (Project Gutenberg): Key for understanding the history of art.
Forthcoming (write me if you want to collaborate on any of these):
- G.G. Coulton, Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation (Archive.org)
- The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor: A Medieval Guide to the Arts, trans. Jerome Taylor (Archive.org)
- Dodi ve-nechdi (Uncle and nephew), trans. Hermann Gollancz (Archive.org)
- Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages (Archive.org)
- St. Anselm. Proslogium; Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Gaunilon; and Cur Deus homo, trans. Sidney Norton Deane (Archive.org)
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