Medieval European History (500 – 1500)


This pathfinder is intended to help anyone interested in learning more about Medieval History, but especially to help high school and undergraduate college students begin a research paper pertaining to the period. A wide variety of resources are introduced to help start the exploration process: books, periodicals, videos, and Internet sources.


Here are some suggested subjects/keywords that can be used in library databases and on the Internet to begin researching Medieval History. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list.

  1. Some Search Keywords
    • Names of people(s) (i.e. Saxons, Vikings, Thomas Beckett, Abelard)
    • Places (geography)
    • Time periods
      Middle Ages – History [LC main Subject Heading and some lesser terms]

      • Chivalry
      • Crusades (Crusaders)
      • Feudalism
      • Knights &Knighthood
      • Medieval History


  2. Call Numbers
    1. Dewey Decimal Classification – (DDC or DC)
      • European History – General Medieval —— (909.07)
      • European Medieval Ages —— (940.1)

      (Also check for Medieval/Middle Ages under topics; For example:

      • Church, Medieval —— (270.2 – 270.5)


    2. Library of Congress – (LC)
      • Middle Ages —— (CB351 – CB355)
      • Middle Ages – History —— (D111 – D203)
      • Middle Ages in Motion Pictures —— (PN1995.9.M52)

(You can also look in Library of Congress Subject Headings for more suggestions)


Here is a Web Site that provides some reasons why Primary Sources are preferred when researching a topic:

Although primary documents can be found on the Internet, printed sources should be employed when citing information in a paper to ensure the information’s validity. There is less certainty that the information provided on the Internet is accurate as opposed to a printed source.


The number of books available on Medieval History abounds to no end. Begin your search by using general sources. When a basic understanding of the topic is achieved, then move on to sources that are more specialized (topic-oriented).

  1. General Information


    • An Encyclopedia of World History – William Langer (ed.)
    • Encyclopedia Britannica
    • Cambridge Medieval History
    • Catholic Encyclopedia
    • Dictionary of the Middle Ages
    • The Story of Civilization – William Durant
    • The Times Atlas of World History – Hammond’s
    • Timetables of History – Bernard Grun
    • Timetables of Jewish History – Judah Gribetz


  2. Books/Periodicals

    There are a wide range of books and periodicals that are more topically focused. Once a general understanding of the information is gained (i.e. from the general information sources), it is best to move on into the literature that specifically deals with the subject being researched. Generally, the more recently the material is published the better.

    Some examples are:

    • A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman
    • Classics of Western Thought – Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation – Karl Thompson
    • Life in a Medieval Castle – Frances and Joseph Gies
    • Medieval Art – James Snyder
    • The Historian (Journal)


  3. Historical Novels

    Historical novels are books based on history, but a fictional story is used to weave many of the facts and events together. Often this type of book is good for entertainment and may even have some learning value, but it is a poor resource to use as a basis for writing a historical research paper.

    • Peter the Great – Robert Massie (Although this technically does not belong to the medieval period, it is a good example of this genre and in many ways Russia was still in its medieval period).
    • Pope Joan – Donna Woolfolk Cross

    For more about or suggestions of historical fiction:

  4. Recommendation

    Personally, I would recommend any book written by the Gies (Frances and Joseph). They have written on a variety of topics related to the Middle Ages from (titles of books) Knights, Life in a Medieval (Castle, Village, City), and Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages to name a few. Their books are informative, vivid, and flowing.


The Internet has a great deal to offer people who have simple questions or are beginning research projects. The breadth of information is amazing, ranging from simple facts to whole dissertations, primary documents, images, and organizations. However, the Internet should be considered an initial research tool, to gain direction. For serious research, one should rely on non-electronic materials for research citations. It is sometimes difficult to determine the validity of the information that is posted on the Internet. As for finding information on the Internet, one is limited only by one’s imagination and what has yet to be made electronically accessible.

  • Internet Medieval Sourcebook
    Full and partial-text documents related to a variety of ancient and medieval historical topics (life, religion, philosophy, politics, etc.).


  • The IPL’s Online Serials Collection — History
    IPL offers access to a wide variety of online historical periodicals, including “The Medieval Review”.


  • Historical Text Archives (European History)
    A very interesting site offering full-text documents related to European History.


  • Society for Creative Anachronism
    “The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating pre-17th-century European history.”


Usenet newsgroups are a good resource for finding information. Essentially electronic bulletin boards, usenet newsgroups allow a person to tap into personal resources spread throughout the world. There are thousands of Usenet newsgroups to be found on the Internet, dedicated to a wide variety of topics. People all over frequent this resource in order to post questions, provide answers, and have discussions. Beware of what Usenet newsgroup you sign on to, because the content is not always supervised; occasionally, tasteless material might be posted. Whenever possible, you might be better off to use monitored Usenet newsgroups.

You can access Usenet newsgroups through many methods, including a site called Dejanews (http://www.dejanews.com),or through your browser’s newsreader. For example, Yahoo has a section with links to

Usenet newsgroups devoted to history topics

(http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/History/Chats_and_Forums/Usenet/),such as soc.history.medieval, which will open your browser’s newsreader when you click on the link to the newsgroup.

Usenet newsgroups sometimes offer FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) archives. When you have a question, it is wise to investigate these resources before posting any messages, because the same question might have been previously asked and answered. There are several ways to find FAQs:

  1. Internet FAQ Archives – Allows you to search or browse archived copies of Usenet FAQs
  2. a Dejanews search which includes a topical keyword (e.g. medieval) and FAQ, and
  3. often, the Usenet newsgroup will regularly post its FAQ file to the group.



History is not necessarily confined to text or immobile images. There are many educational videos – of varying levels and topics – and movies that are both informative and entertaining.

  1. Educational


    • Crusades
      A history of the Crusades oriented for a younger audience.
    • HistoryUs Turning Points
      Dramatic reenactments of historical events (full costume).
    • The Western Tradition
      History professor lectures on historical topics. Although set in a college seminar room, onsite footage (i.e. at a cathedral, etc.) is inserted.


  2. Historical-Bases Fiction Films
    Some of the history in historical movies may be true, but beware that often fiction used to fill in gaps or facts are altered in favor of a certain story line.

    • Braveheart – (Late thirteenth century England)
    • Charlemagne – (Ninth century Europe)

Try the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) for more selections. (http://www.imdb.com/)

Medieval history is a very broad and diverse topic and so is the format in which information about it can be found. Most importantly, this pathfinder is only meant to serve as a starting point for research. Explore.

This pathfinder was created by Eric K. Rode