Website Review

Global Medieval Sourcebook

Stanford University

Featuring a truly global collection of primary sources from the medieval period, the Global Medieval Sourcebook (GMS) is a fantastic model of an open access teaching and research platform that features an innovative modular user interface perfect for teaching and learning translation. A constantly growing depository of medieval texts from 600 to 1600 CE, the GMS—already a valuable resource for medieval historians—will only become more important over time as the digital turn further entrenches itself into the humanities.

The platform currently holds ninety-six medieval manuscripts, incunabulum, or modern editions of premodern sources that each come with an introduction to the text and the source more broadly, metadata on the source, and further readings in each source’s landing page. These are meticulously researched yet written accessibly and give readers with useful context about each source before they proceed to look at the sources themselves. When visitors click on the ‘Go to Text’ function, they are taken to what the development team calls a ‘reading environment’ powered by the open-source software Versioning Machine. Within this customisable and user-friendly platform, readers can move transcriptions, translations, and commentary in the form of critical notes from an expert around as well as turning each on or off depending on their preference or how they intend to use the source. Though ninety-six sources might seem like a relatively small amount, the sourcebook is slowly but surely growing as medieval scholars from across the world continue to make contributions to the program, which are first rigorously vetted and peer-reviewed by the editorial team and external peer reviewers before being featured on GMS. The sources themselves are a wonderfully diverse set of primarily Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Mandarin, Persian, and Spanish texts though there are some surprising additions such as Aljamiado, Castilian, Occitan, Syriac, Tuscan, and Welsh entries as well, most of which have never previously been translated into English before.

Visitors are able to find sources in a variety of ways in the easy to navigate website, which only has five tabs: ‘Home’, ‘Search Texts’, ‘Collections’, ‘Contact’, and ‘About’. In the first instance, the home page features all of the available texts and visitors can browse through the seven pages which contain them. Alternately, they can use the advanced search function which can be filtered via author, keywords, language, period, and genre as well as going through the list of sources in the same page, which can be ordered in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order on the basis of title or language.

The editorial team and their collaborators have also put together a series of collections along the lines of theme, linguistics, and genre. Specifically, there are seven collections: ‘Facetia: A Collection of Early Modern Jokes’, ‘Fantastic Fables: A 14th-Century Book of Moral Tales and Dialogues’, ‘Gender, Sex and Sensuality: Writings on Women, Men and Desire’, ‘Hymns and Histories: Early German Writings, 800-1000 CE’, ‘Love Songs of the Medieval World: Lyrics from Europe and Asia’, ‘Prayer, Spirituality, and Life after Death: Global Medieval Perspectives’, and ‘Writing History: Chronicles, Legends and Anecdotes’. Each represents a fascinating collection but ‘Love Songs of the Medieval World’ is a particularly unique and vibrant exploration of how expressing affection through song has such deep global roots.

As the website itself outlines, teachers can use the GMS in two main ways. The first is to assign a medieval text—or perhaps a selection of them—as readings for a wider course. Used in tandem with the introductory and bibliographic material suggested or other secondary sources, this is an excellent option for undergraduate and high-school survey courses on medieval history. For graduate seminars and other advanced classes, educators can teach translation and transcription skills by setting only the text in its original language and slowly taking students through it with the help of the provided translations and critical notes.

On the whole, the Global Medieval Sourcebook is an excellent resource for researchers, educators, students, and anyone interested in learning more about the medieval era from a global perspective. Eschewing the Eurocentrism that often dominates medieval studies, while the collection is small and still growing, it is nevertheless a valuable addition to the new trend of the global medieval.

Reviewed by Bernard Z. Keo, Monash University

How to Cite This Source

"Global Medieval Sourcebook," in in World History Commons, [accessed January 20, 2022]
“A constantly growing depository of medieval texts from 600 to 1600 CE, the GMS—already a valuable resource for medieval historians—will only become more important over time as the digital turn further entrenches itself into the humanities. ”