Latin codicology, palaeography, and script

(class leader: Dr James Willoughby)

Training in the use of original documents depends on students' familiarity with the languages in which the documents to be studied were written. The course concentrates on documents in Latin, the language of most widespread medieval use.

Reading Medieval Documents (12 classes) aims to introduce students to the study of original documents and of enrolled copies from the late eleventh century to the fifteenth century. Documents are studied in batches that illustrate a particular point about the making or use of records. Acquiring a facility in reading the documents, including the abbreviations and contractions in regular use, is the main aim of the course. The examples used, however, are selected to illustrate the principal forms of document, both official and private, in use in England during the period. This course is offered at the beginning of the Michaelmas term so that those who need to pursue their research in archives can make a start early in the year.

Overview of the history of writing 450-1500 (8 lectures). This course is an outline introduction to the potential of palaeography for dating and locating books and documents from their style of writing. It cannot cover the whole medieval period in sufficient detail to represent a training in palaeography, but it lays a foundation for students to acquire higher palaeographical skill in their particular areas of interest, and it enables them to understand palaeographical reasoning when they encounter it in secondary literature relating to manuscripts and texts.

Principles of Diplomatic (8 lectures). This course outlines the methods of diplomatic both in working out the implicit meaning of a class of documents and in testing the authenticity of individual documents. It considers how documents were produced and what influenced the forms in use. The historic unity of the European diplomatic tradition is illustrated, though the course is conducted at the general level rather than considering the special features of particular diplomatic forms. How to date undated documents and the range of chronological systems used in medieval Europe are also covered. The last lecture includes examples of the testing of documents to unmask forgery in the middle ages as well as the application of diplomatic criticism by modern scholars.

English Royal Diplomatic 990-1216 (8 two-hour lectures). A course in special diplomatic, focused on a period when the documents under review are particularly important as historical sources and when changing habits in documentary practice make the period an especially rich subject for diplomatic study. The course traces the last generations of the Anglo-Saxon royal diploma, the emergence of the Old English writ and its adoption in Latin by Anglo-Norman kings, the evolution from it of the writ-charter during the period 1070 to 1170, and its gradual eclipse by the charter generally addressed, which was the dominant form of royal grant from Henry II's time until the fourteenth century. The influence of Norman tradition in England and the extent of beneficiary diplomatic are dealt with. The course also covers the growth of central offices of government, the Exchequer and its records, in particular the twelfth-century pipe rolls, and the Chancery through the period when Chancery enrolments begin and diversify, until their temporary suspension on the death of King John.