In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Post-Conquest England

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Annual Volumes
  • Festschriften
  • Historiography
  • General Histories Pre-1307
  • General Histories Post-1307
  • Political History
  • Royal Government and Administrative History
  • The Jews (Before 1290)
  • Social History
  • Families, Family Structure, and the Household
  • Intellectual History, Education, Science, and Medicine

Medieval Studies Post-Conquest England
Joel Rosenthal
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 January 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0072


The customary periodization of English history refers to the period before the Norman Conquest as the Anglo-Saxon or Old English period, and then “medieval history” is seen to begin in 1066, though this conventional English distinction is not invariably followed in the United States. Furthermore, recent scholarship has worked to erode the milestone boundaries of both 1066, at the beginning, and 1485, at the end, in terms of these dates defining or bracketing medieval history. Regarding 1066, the extent to which the new Norman monarchy was based upon and built itself as an extension of late Anglo-Saxon society and statecraft has received considerable attention, while at the far end scholars have argued that we can narrow (if not close) the gap between the late-medieval world of the Lancastrian and Yorkist dynasties in the 15th century and that of the early Tudors after 1485. However, by the early 16th century both the problems that beset the realm, particularly the Henrician Reformation, and the sources through which we can study the great upheaval, begin to differ from those that marked late-medieval England. Accordingly, this entry winds down in the late 15th century. This entry focuses on secular society, with complementary Oxford Bibliographies entries on the Church after the Conquest, the English kings, and the English chronicle tradition, as well as a number of entries on literary topics to help round out the coverage.

Reference Works

In addition to bibliographies there are numerous reference books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias that cover different aspects of medieval England. Many of these newer reference volumes devote considerable attention to social and cultural history, alongside such traditional topics as monarchy, the various kings, and central government. Material culture and women and family structure are now topics of interest. Works such as Cheney 1955 and Mullins 1958 present information that is hard to find in one place, while the encyclopedias listed (like Strayer 1982 and Szarmach, et al. 1998) have articles by leading authorities and usually indicate the state of the question (or research) at the time of publication. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a vast project; its collections of biographies are constantly being supplemented online, and new entries continue to be inserted, whereas the biographies in Roskell, et al. 1992 will stand as published. Some reference volumes have a special focus; see Beresford and Finberg 1973 listing the boroughs and Davis, et al. 2010 for the cartularies that are invaluable for the study of land-holding and of the institutions and families that recorded such important information.

  • Beresford, M. W., and H. P. R. Finberg. English Medieval Boroughs: A Hand-List. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1973.

    Boroughs were towns and cities with a charter granting the rights of self-government, and they are listed here by counties with a reference to the extant sources, both published and in manuscript. Boroughs play a major part in the tale of economic growth and urbanization.

  • Cheney, Christopher R. A Handbook of Dates for Students of British History. London: Royal Historical Society, 1955.

    This handbook has been revised and updated by Michael Jones in the same format, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000). The handbook is an invaluable guide to such information as regnal years, saints’ days observed in the British Isles, and the date of Easter through the millennium.

  • Crabtree, Pam J., ed. Medieval Archaeology: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 2001.

    Medieval archaeology is a fairly new field, and a reference volume that covers findings, digs, and methods is useful, though new reports—often on digs actually made some years before—make keeping abreast of new work a challenge.

  • Davis, G. R. C., Claire Breay, Julian Harrison, and David M. Smith. Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland. London: British Library, 2010.

    Now in a revised edition, a guide to the records of ecclesiastical and secular landlords indicating the extent of landed holdings; a valuable source for tracing families as well as their lands, their main source of wealth. Originally published in 1958 (London: Longman).

  • Mullins, E. L. C. Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications. London: Royal Historical Society, 1958.

    A listing of the publications of the many local history societies as well as those of the Record Office. Mullins brought out a second volume listing the publications of 1957–1982 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1983). These volumes offer easy access to materials that are often hard to locate in library catalogues.

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    Now the major and absolutely indispensable biographical reference book, running to sixty volumes. In addition to biographical entries for hundreds of medieval men and women, there are generic articles on such topics as the Paston Family or women as medical practitioners. This new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) replaces the old Dictionary of National Biography and is constantly being updated online, as well as adding new biographies for even wider coverage.

  • Roskell, J. S., Linda Clark, and Carole Rawcliffe, eds. History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1386–1421. 4 vols. Stroud, UK: Alan Sutton, 1992.

    Now the authoritative reference work for biographies of members of the House of Commons, with the rest of the 15th century to be covered and now nearing completion (under the editorial direction of Linda Clark), all to replace the 1938 volumes supervised by J. C. Wedgwood. A basic work covering all knowable MPs.

  • Strayer, Joseph R., ed. Dictionary of the Middle Ages. 13 vols. New York: Scribner, 1982.

    Joseph R. Strayer was editor in chief, with many entries on England and the British Isles, some quite long and with useful if short bibliographies. A supplementary volume (2004), edited by William Chester Jordan, fills in some gaps in the coverage of the 1982 effort.

  • Szarmach, Paul E., Mary Teresa Tavormina, and Joel T. Rosenthal, eds. Medieval England: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1998.

    The focus is on many aspects of the topic, with literature, art, and music being covered in addition to “history.” Anglo-Saxon England, as well as post-Conquest England, is included.

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