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Medieval West - Reference Sources: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - General and History

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

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - General and History

Handbook of Medieval Culture, Fundamental Aspects and Conditions of the European Middle Ages Reference CB 351 .H227 2015 v. 1-3

Bibliographic essays of some length, arranged alphabetically through the three volumes.  Select Bibliography follows each signed article.  Bibliography of primary sources and extensive bibliography of secondary sources at back of volume 3.  Overall index in v. 3.  Articles on such topics as architecture, visual arts, astronomy, children and childhood, cities, communication, death, friendship, God, education and schooling, horses, Islamic Spain, roads, rural world.  Many disciplines and countries covered.

Brill's Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Main CB 351 .E5913 2017 v. 1-2

English translation of a German work.  Most entries by German scholars.  It is interdisciplinary, thematically arranged, critical, and is about the European Middle Ages.  Complete table of contents in both volumes.  214 pp. unannotated, overall bibliography at back of volume 2, contains references to books and articles in German, French, English, Italian.  V. 2, at back, also has alphabetical list of the topics covered, with vol. and page references.  Articles are signed by their authors.  No overall index.  Volume one contains the material on Society and Faith and Knowledge.  Volume two contains the entries on Literature, Fine Arts and Music, Economy, Technology, Living Environments and Conditions, and Constitutive Historical Events and Regions.  Table of contents is very detailed; start there.

Holy Roman Empire, a Historical Encyclopedia Main DD 125 .P385 2019 v. 1-2

220 entries in 8 topical sections: government and politics, organization and administration, individual biography, groups and organizations, key events, military, objects and artifacts, key places.  Selection of primary documents at back of v. 2.  Chronology covers 800-1806.  Short, overall bibliography of secondary sources.  Bibliographic references follow the articles.  About the history and culture of the longest lasting European empire.  Each section has an overview essay followed by more specific topical essays.  All the work is by two scholars, Brian A. Pavlac, professor of history, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and Elizabeth S. Lott, former dean of graduate programs of a liberal arts college, with a PhD in medieval Latin from Harvard, a translator and cataloger of medieval documents, college level Latin teacher, writer and editor.

All Things Medieval, an Encyclopedia of the Medieval World  Main CB 351 .J675 2011 v. 1-2

Focus is the material culture of the Middle Ages. Further reading references.

Chronology of Early Medieval Western Europe Main D 118 .V43 2018

"Uses primary and secondary sources to chart the history of Britain and Western Europe, with reference to the Celtic world, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and North America."  Covers mid 5th c. to 1066.  Organized by year within in chronological chapters: 449/50-610; 611-751; 751-840; 840-962; 963-1066.  Within each year, entries are alphabetical by place/country, using primarily modern terms for places.  Entries for events or incidents in history range from one to several paragraphs.  Then one must refer to other reference sources to learn more about the event or incident.  There are unannotated bibliographies of both primary and secondary sources at the conclusion of each chronological chapter.  Topical index. 

Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages Main D 117 .O92 2010 v. 1-4

Middle Ages Reference Library

Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle  Main D 114 .E539 2010 v. 1-3

A repository of basic information on individual chronicles.  Covers chronicles (history writings) from all of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.  2500 texts are described.  Entries cover: when the work arose, its contents, style, scope, its intellectual milieu and political agenda, its textual transmission, and if the work isn't anonymous, biographical notes on the chronicler.  Also serves as a handbook for chronicle studies by discussing contexts and recurring themes, trends, and controversies in current research.  This is done both in review articles surveying broad traditions and themes,  and within the articles on the individual texts themselves.  Does not replace Repertorium Fontium Historiae Medii Aevi (Main Z 6203 .R43 v. 1-11) which is particularly strong on bibliography or other older, more complex works.  Most of the entries are for titles of particular chronicles or names of authors.  Entries have short bibliographies and are signed by the authors, who are mostly academics from Europe.  There is a list of their names at the back of volume two that shows the articles they wrote.  Back of v. 2 also has indexes of work titles and authors, a general index of people, places, general topics, an index of geographical names, and an index of manuscripts arranged by holding institution.

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Global Medieval Life and Culture  Main CB 351 .G743 2009 v. 1-3

Covers the whole world during the period called medieval in Western Europe. v. 1 covers Europe and the  Americas.  V. 2 covers Africa and the Middle East.  V. 3 covers Asia and Oceania.  For each, there are: chronology, maps, overview and topical essays (historical overview, religion, economy, arts, society, science/technology, global ties), short entries for: people, ideas, events and terms, primary documents, and an appendix about dynasties of rulers.

Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Reference D 114 .D5 1982, v. 1-13

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society in Transformation  Main DF 135 .F73 2003

The Crusades: an Encyclopedia

Crusades, an Encyclopedia

Explores the phenomenon of the Crusades in all of its complexity, ranging from the classic numbered crusades in the Middle East to the Reconquista in Spain, and from the Baltic Crusades to the crusades against Albigensian heretics in France.  Entries for people, places, events, institutions, literary and historical sources, and themes.

Crusades to the Holy Land, the Essential Reference Guide Main D 155 .C79 2015.

Mostly topical entries, with a some biographical ones, some less than a page, some several pages.  A few b/w illustrations.  Chronology.  All entries have further reading references, books or articles, some in foreign languages.  Three essay, with bibliographies, at the beginning provide an overview of the topic, causes of the crusades, and consequences of the crusades.   Appendix contains essays, with bibliographies, revealing several perspectives on each of these topics:  Why did the crusades ultimately fail? How central was Jerusalem to medieval crusading? Is it accurate to draw parallels between the crusades of the medieval period and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq today? Copies of 10 primary sources cover a couple of battles and calls for crusade.  Short overall bibliography at end contains reference works, general histories, sections on the Muslim World, the Byzantine World, Outremer and Cyprus.

Instruments of War: Weapons and Technologies that Have Changed History.  Main U 800 .T77 2015

By an eminent military historian.  This is a catalog of weaponry.  Arranged chronologically.  Two tables of contents, one chronological as the entries appear in the text, the other alphabetically.  B/W illustrations.  Also entries for life-saving technologies in war, such as helmets.

Lexikon des Mittelalters, Reference D 101.5 .L4, Bd. 1-9

Cantor, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Reference D 114 .E53 1999. One volume, by a senior scholar and author of many books on the medieval period.

Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Reference D 114 .D53 2000 v. 1-2

Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages, an Encyclopedia, Reference, HF 1001 .T7 2000. This is an introduction to the history of travel, exploration, discovery, and mercantile activity in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the New World. Mix of short and long entries, all signed, on topics, persons, and places cover from the fall of the Roman Empire and the so-called "Age of Discovery" and the end of the 15th c. Bibliographic references with each article and a general bibliography at the back. Chronology, too.

Broughton, Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood and Chivalry, Concepts and Terms, Reference CR 4505 .B76 1986 and Broughton, Dictionary of Medieval Knighthood and Chivalry, People, Places, and Events, Reference CR 4505 .B76 1988. These works include concepts, terms, biographical sketches on people and places, and information on medieval events which readers are likely to come across in their reading of history and fictional works on the medieval west. Appendices include genealogical charts for English and French rulers, a topical list of entries, and a bibliography. Further reading references in the entries are keyed to the numbered list of bibliography references in the appendix.

Medieval Jewish Civilization, an Encyclopedia, Reference, DS 124 .M386 2003. Jews in medieval times absorbed elements of both Christian and Muslim worlds, acculturating without assimilating. As a result, their contributions in many fields were significant. Entries from one column to several pages in length on topics, persons, and places, often with longer further reading lists than in many encyclopedias.

Dictionary of the History of Ideas, Very useful for reading up on philosophies, ideas, and the authors associated with them.

A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing, Reference, D 13 .G47 1998 v. 1-2. Useful for studying either historians writing in medieval times, or historians writing about medieval times since then. Read about authors, find a list of works by the author, and obtain further reading suggestions. Also has entries for old and new forms of writing about the medieval period, for example, chronicles.

Age of Wars of Religion 1000-1650 an Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization Main D 114 .N66 2006 v. 1-2

2000 alphabetically arranged entries.  Covers world, but more attention to Europe.  Entries range from a few sentences to several pages, and each has a suggested readings section.

Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War, Main, U 24 .D4913 1994. Should one need a dictionary about these subjects.

New Cambridge Medieval History, Main D 117 .N48 1995 v. 1-7. A multi-volume text on the medieval period.

Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe, Main D 102 .O94 1988. Similar to the above, but only one volume and with pictures. Using this or the New Cambridge... or one of the dictionaries or encyclopedias might help you choose a topic or get some ideas of how to narrow a topic to make it doable.

Aries and Duby, eds. History of Private Life, Main, HN 8 .H5713 1987. A text. v. 1 From Pagan Rome to Byzantium. V. 2 Revelations of the Medieval World. For topic ideas, narrowing them down, and reading up. Also available in French.

Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship, and Sexuality through History Consulting Reference HQ 21 .G67125 2008 v. 1-6

Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology Main U 37 .O94 2010 v. 1-3

Varieties of Magical Experience Indigenous, Medieval, and Modern Magic

History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000 Fine Arts NK 600 f.H57 20013

Brill's Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World  Main PA 8015 .B66 2014 v. 1-2  Two volumes, Macropaedia and Micropedia, for longer and shorter articles.  Name and geographic place indexes.  No subject index.  Signed articles, with bibliographies.  Neo-Latin is works written in 'new Latin' from the time of Petrarch to the present.  Earlier editions of this work covered primarily literature.  This edition covers all subjects.  Use the table of contents in the volumes to scan to find the articles on topics of interest.  Covers all these and more in vol. 1:  many topics in language and education, various literary genres, arts, philosophy, sciences, printing, Church, law, history of this field of neo-Latin studies.  In v. 2: biographical entries, botany, commentaries on the Bible, educational treatises from Italy, letter collections, letter-writing manuals, neo-Latin literature in many countries in various periods, Neo-Latin online, patronage, printing centers, scribes, sermons, women writers.  Much more.

Astrology through History Main BF 1655 .A88 2018

A dictionary on the history of astrology in the western tradition from ancient Mesopotamia to present.  Contains an overview of the history, a timeline of the history, a glossary of brief definitions of key terms, and an A-Z dictionary of over a hundred articles on astrology and its history.   Signed articles, including ones on individuals.  Further reading references.   Some b/w illustrations.

Vikings, an Encyclopedia of Conflict, Invasions, and Raids  Main DL 65 .M84 2022

Detailed coverage of the Vikings, infamous for their violent marauding across Europe in the early Middle Ages.  Five essays precede an alphabetical arrangement of topical entries.  The essays cover sources about the Vikings, Vikings at home, explorations and expansion, weaponry and warfare, and the way of the warrior.  Entries include topics, events, battles, places, individuals,  Further readings for each article.  Glossary.  Overall bibliography.  Two authors have written all the entries.  One is a runic specialist and independent research in Scandinavian studies.  The other author is a professor of Old Norse and Scandinavian linguistics at U. of Wisconsin.  Together they have also authored Vikings: Facts and Fictions (see next entry). This is a work specifically on the warfare aspects of the Vikings.

Vikings: Facts and Fictions Main DL 65 .W6552 2018