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Medieval West - Reference Sources: Biography

This is a guide to reference sources on the medieval West: guides to the literature, periodical indexes, encyclopedias/dictionaries, atlases/maps, biography, book length bibliographies. Last updated 06-13-2023


Icons of the Middle Ages, Rulers, Writers, Rebels, and Saints.  MSU Faculty Book Collection CT 114 .I36 2012 v. 1-2  Lengthy articles on medieval western figures that have challenged the status quo, influenced millions, and impacted history.  Written by a variety of scholars; the overall editor was a Michigan State English professor who died in 2012.

Great Lives from History. the Middle Ages 477-1453. Remote Storage CT 114 .G74 2005 v. 1-2.    Lives and achievements of outstanding individuals. Does not include British figures. Articles, about 4 pages each, cover early life, life's work, summary, and conclude with a bibliography.  See earlier editions for more on European figures.

Who's Who in the Middle Ages, Main CT 114 .S56 2001. Paragraph length articles with very short bibliographies. Some illustrations. Chronology of events; list of popes, emperors and monarchs; founding dates of universities, colleges, major monasteries, abbeys, convents; occupational/contribution index. Unannotated bibliography at the back includes some web sites.

Rise of the Medieval World, 500-1300, a Biographical Dictionary, Main CT 114 .R57 2002. Men and women who made contributions to European culture. Chronology. Entries medium length, from a long paragraph to two-three pages. One or more bibliographical references conclude articles. A more extensive bibliography in back of book.

Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500, a Biographical Dictionary, Main CB 353 .L38 2001. Follows the above title, chronologically. Same format.

Arthurian Figures of History and Legend: a Biographical Dictionary Main DA 152.5 .A7 R458 2011

Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain, Main DA 152 .W54 1991. Covers subjects in England, Scotland, and Wales in the c500-c1050 period. Paragraph length entries with minimal bibliographic references.

Great Historians from Antiquity to 1800, an International Dictionary, Remote Storage D 14 .G74 1989. Arranged by nationality. Just in case someone wants to write on a particular historian from the medieval period, or a historian writing on the medieval period prior to 1800. Great Historians of the Modern Age, Reference, Biography, D 14 .G75 1991 to be used to find historians of the medieval period writing in the 19th or 20th centuries. Articles about a page long discuss the works of the individuals. Bibliographic references on the person and his, mostly, works, conclude. Very selective. See also Encyclopedia of Global Historical Writings, in the section above.

Women in World History, a Biographical Encyclopedia, Reference HQ 1115 .W66 1999 v. 1-14. Long articles with both primary and secondary source further readings.

Encyclopedia of British Women Writers, Main PR 111 .S34 1998. 600 entries. Entries include biographical information, information about the writer's works, a list of her works, and a bibliography of works about her and her writings.

French Women Writers, a Bio-Bibliographical Source Book, Main PQ 149 .F73 1991. Chapters on French women writers by individual scholars include a biography, major themes of subject's works, and a survey of criticism on the author. Extensive, unannotated bibliography includes modern editions, collected works, and translations of the author's works, translations of collected works, and studies on the author and her works.

Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World, a Biographical Dictionary, Main HQ 1143 .E93 2000. Long articles on fewer women, as this is only one volume. Short lists of further reading at the ends of the articles. Interesting appendix of notable women by title, occupation, or main area of interest.

Ireland, Index to Women of the World from Ancient to Modern Times, Biographies and Portraits, Remote Storage  HQ 1123 .I73 and Suppl. An index to information about women found in other sources. An abbreviation to a book title in several letters and page numbers appears under the subject's name. Look in the front under the letters to find the author and title of the book containing the needed information. Then check MAGIC.

Echols and Williams, Annotated Index of Medieval Women, Main CT 3220 .A56 1992. 1500 entries present a cross-section of women from 800-1500 living in 30 countries. The largest group are from 13th and 14th century England and France, upper class women. Paragraph length biographies, dates, country, and sources from which the information is taken. These sources are compiled in a bibliography at the end. Lists at the end by date, country, and field of endeavor, or reason for inclusion. These categories are very varied: abduction, abbesses, adultery, alewives, anchoresses, antinomians, apothecaries, apparel....

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Reference DA 28 .O95 2004, v. 1-60. Major scholarly dictionary of long articles on famous , deceased British noteworthy persons. Extensive bibliographical references.

Oxford Dictionary of Saints.  Online ed. is 2011. Older copies in paper in Main and Remote Storage BX 4659 .F7 F23 [date]

Butler's Lives of the Saints, Main BX 4654 .B8 1956 v. 1-4. Butler is a standard source, providing, in calendar order, readable, short biographies of saints, both factual and legendary information.

Medieval Philosophers,  Part of Gale Literature Resource Center online. Entries on 41 medieval philosophers range from 10-15 pages in length. Biographies recount careers and ideas of the subjects and provide copious primary and secondary bibliographies. A good place to begin, if the philosopher wanted is included.  If link here does not work, use Gale Literature Resource Center. Click on Advanced Search.  Enter "Medieval Philosophers" (with quotation marks). Choose type of search Publication title.

Montesinos, Dictionnaire Raisonne de l'Alchimie et des Alchimistes  Remote Storage QD 23.5 .M66 2010

Ogilvie, Women in Science, Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century, a Biographical Dictionary with Annotated Bibliography, Main Q 141 .O34 1986.

Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Remote Storage Q 141 .D53 1981. 18 vols.

Slocum, Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works, an International Bibliography of Approximately 16,000 Collective Biographies...,  Remote Storage CT 104 .S55 1986 v. 1-2

Remember that most of the various encyclopedias and subject dictionaries above also contain many biographical sketches.