Teaching & Learning Support

Are you teaching medieval law? Where do you point your students as a way in to legal documents? When they need to find things online, where do you send them? This sub-series of #SpotlightOn posts looks at teaching and learning resources for students and those new to teaching. We would love to share some thoughts and practical advice, so please get in touch with us. Comment below, or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.


Already well-known to most, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy is a good resource for Ancient to 21stC laws and statutes, and a great place to point students if they are searching for source material. Fordham’s medieval sourcebook is another excellent place, but that’s for another #SpotlightOn post. One of the older/longer running digital projects out there, most of its content is now available in print or digitised in other formats, so where possible these should be consulted – it remains, however, a valuable resource for students and a good place to send them for source material. Since it is one of the oldest projects out there, we thought it would be good to highlight it here as the start of our sub-series of posts. If you want to know more about what others think of it, you can also read Hui Hua Chua’s 2005 review of the project at Emerald Insight.


Using Avalon

The project has amassed a great number of documents in easy-to-navigate collections, and is hosted by Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library. The project’s statement of purpose reads:


The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We do not intend to mount only static text but rather to add value to the text by linking to supporting documents expressly referred to in the body of the text.

The Avalon Project will no doubt contain controversial documents. Their inclusion does not indicate endorsement of their contents nor sympathy with the ideology, doctrines, or means employed by their authors. They are included for the sake of completeness and balance and because in many cases they are by our definition a supporting document.


The Medieval section of the project has a total of 29 links to legal documents arranged in alphabetical order, and ranging widely from 400-1399. The full text of James Ingram’s 1823 edition of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle appears here at the top of the list, and can be navigated via the contents page by century; Britannia History’s digital version, found here, is a little easier to navigate.


The sources also include extracts from the Anglo-Saxon Laws, taken from William Stubbs’ Select Charters and other Illustrations of English Constitutional History from the Earliest Times to the Reign of Edward the First, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900), although it appears the ‘definition of terms’ box at the bottom of the page no longer works. The subject of another [future] #SpotlightOn post, Early English Laws, also has a great many legal texts from this period online, with new translations of some included/forthcoming.


The majority of the laws collected in this section are related to England, but there is also a translation of the Salic Law, taken from Ernest F. Henderson’s 1896 edition of Select Documents of the Middle Ages. A new[er] edition of Salic Law is available, of course; see also, Katherine Fischer Drew, The Laws of the Salian Franks, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991), and Fordham’s sourcebook has the 1910 edition of Henderson’s text available online too.


Other non-England related texts include The Gelnhausen Charter (1180), Henderson’s 1896 text; some texts relating to Barbarossa and the Crusades, and a short extract from the Nuremburg Diet (1274).


The Avalon Project is a good site to help with comparative studies or to send students for specific editions of laws/texts, and as it’s all open access it will continue to be a good go-to sourcebook despite its limited medieval section.


If you have used this or similar projects in your teaching, we would love to hear about your experiences for future posts on teaching Medieval Law!







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