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History Subject Guide: Medieval History

Trent University Library History Subject Guide

Online Medieval Reference Sites

Indexes to Journal Literature in Medieval Studies

Library Catalogue Search Tips

If you are not familiar with catalogue search basics you should view the Library Skills Tutorials. Here are a few search tips for finding items related to medieval history.

Starting Points for Research in Medieval History

Here are some search tips to get you started on finding material in TOPCAT on Medieval history. Cataloguers try to be specific when cataloguing items dealing with historical periods. Medieval tends to refer to the broader period while Middle Ages can be broken down into Early, High or Late Middle Ages. Mediaeval is a lesser used spelling. To make sure you retrieve as many catalogue records as possible you want to take this into account. A keyword search could contain the following, but it would probably retrieve far too many results.

'middle ages' or medieval or mediaeval

It would be better to combine the above search with other search terms to help you find topic ideas. Remember, if combining a search using different boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) it is best to put multiple search terms associated with one operator in their own brackets. This way, TOPCAT will search those terms first and then combine them with the other search term. Remember, in TOPCAT $ is the truncation symbol. In the following example TOPCAT will retrieve records with war, wars, warrior, warriors, warring.

('middle ages' or medieval or mediaeval) and war$

('middle ages' or medieval or mediaeval) and religio$

Once you do a search and get a results list in the catalogue quickly examine the list and look for items that appear to be on your topic. Look at the full bibliographic record and see if there are subject terms that you can use to help refine or expand your search. For example the following are useful terms that cataloguers use when creating records for books that cover economic or social history:

economic conditions

social conditions

You can use this knowledge to create searches like ('middle ages' or medieval or mediaeval) and ('economic conditions' or 'social conditions')


Persons of Historical Significance

Searching the catalogue using historical figures as search terms is very useful. Thus, you need a basic grasp of the historical events and persons. Use your textbook, subject specific reference books, websites, etc. to find such terms. For example, Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. A catalogue keyword search using 'constantine the great' or 'constantine I' or 'saint constantine' retrieves over sixty items, compared to just over 30 using only the search term 'constantine the great'.

Historical Events

You can search the catalogue by specific historical events. For example, the Crusades were a significant part of Medieval history. Doing a keyword search for crusades will retrieve items, and because they were most associated with the Medieval period you do not need to use this or its synonyms as search terms.




Primary Medieval Sources Online