16 january 2009

Important medieval records to go online

Arts

Gascon rolls: CREDIT: National Archives of England & Wales
The previously unpublished Gascon Rolls will be made available online. Credit:National Archives of England & Wales

The most important unpublished records of the Hundred Years War, the Gascon Rolls, will be made available to academic researchers and the general public, thanks to a project led by Oxford.

Academics from Oxford are collaborating with the University of Liverpool and King’s College London on the initiative and have been funded almost three-quarters of a million pounds by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The National Archives and The Ranulf Higden Society are also co-operating in the project.

The Hundred Years War is a significant era of history, which ended after a massive defeat by the French of an English army on a battlefield at Castillon, near Bordeaux. This terminated three hundred years of English rule in southwest France and the end of England’s rule as a continental European land power.

Dr Malcolm Vale, of St John’s College, said: 'The history of the old emnity between England and France today still arouses interest and, in some quarters, passion. Its origins lay in the Middle Ages, and some parts of the story have not yet been fully told. One phase of the conflict - now known as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453)  - was provoked and fuelled by English claims to hold overseas territories, particularly the duchy of Aquitaine.

This project will make an important contribution to international scholarship and to the history of a region of France with which British connections have always been close.

Dr Malcolm Vale, Lecturer in Modern History and project director

‘This research project aims to make available the most important unpublished documentary source for that war, its prelude, course and aftermath so we can arrive at a better understanding of how and why relations between the two countries deteriorated, leading to a century-long conflict. Its consequences have resonances even today - in, for example, the Joan of Arc story and the mythologies, which have grown up around it on both sides of the Channel. This project will make an important contribution to international scholarship and to the history of a region of France with which British connections have always been close.'

There are 113 unpublished manuscripts, covering the years 1317 to 1468, which are currently held in the National Archives in London. They contain copies of letters, grants and many other documents mostly written in Latin, and will be published in English summaries in on-line and printed form. The work of the project will be highly innovative producing a resource which will include on-line indices, a search function and the facility to view both images and text within a highly sophisticated and interconnected framework. It is expected to take three years to complete the project.

Dr Vale is the project’s director, and Paul Booth, of the University of Liverpool, co-director. They will work with two post-doctoral researchers, from Oxford and Liverpool, to read, translate, and summarise the entries on the rolls. The Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College London will develop the technical framework.

Finally, The Ranulf Higden Society, a group of experienced, independent researchers, will produce a full edition (text and translation) of the roll for 1337-38, which covers the outbreak of the Hundred Years War.