PAST Thematic Overview: Hidden Medieval Voices at The National Archives

Date / time: 9 May, 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The structure of historical records created and managed by the state can hide rich detail on the lives of marginalised and vulnerable people in the past. 19th-century archivists who organised this material into its modern form, and created key lists and published summaries, also imposed their views on the ways researchers might now reach into medieval collections.

This half-day online workshop explores the how to work against the grain of archival arrangements to discover the parts of The National Archives’ collection with most to offer researchers exploring hidden voices and lives in periods before c.1530.

This workshop will offer sessions on:

Researching Disability and Disease in the Middle Ages. From evidence of physical and mental medical conditions to responses to injury, accident or old age, records at The National Archives reveal how the state established procedures to address common problems and act in response to individual cases. The consequences of epidemics, famine or environmental change on health and wellbeing will also be explored through the records as central and local officials looked to safeguard the population with the tools and knowledge available in the medieval period.

Sexuality, Gender and the Hidden Voices of Women in the records of medieval government. Government records of patriarchal medieval society present difficulties when looking for the visibility of relationships and identities that did not conform. While the Church upheld traditional morality in social contexts, the records of bishops’ court or parish government are held elsewhere. Nevertheless, the state’s control of the law and ruling bureaucracy presents a strong range of evidence of value to sexuality and gender studies. Case studies of women’s independent roles as spinsters, widows, and heiresses will also be presented, as well as information on women’s work and criminality, and evidence of women who led unconventional married lives.

Alien and Other: Migration, Minorities and the visibility of Foreigners in Medieval England and Wales. Links between England and Wales and other states and territories in medieval Europe and beyond are evident in government records. How the state monitored and materially affected the lives of migrant communities is key to assessing their status within the nation’s cities, manors and parishes. This session will build expertise in using evidence such as tax records, oaths of allegiance and petitions alongside mercantile and trading documents to explore how foreigners lived and interacted at various levels of medieval society.


Image: Wiki CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.