Asynchronous Digital Activities Digital Learning Resource Meet a Medieval Source Videos

The People of 1381, by Helen Lacey

Dr Helen Lacey

Mansfield College, University of Oxford


People of 1381 Project

Petition of Margery Tany

Petition of Margery Tany, widow of Thomas Tany and executrix of his testament.

Discussion Questions

  1. What circumstantial details do we need to take into account when examining the two petitions of Margery Tawney?
  2. Why might women be underrepresented in the archival records of the revolt?
  3. What can this petition tell us about the role of law and justice in the rebellion of 1381?

Further Reading

A. Prescott, ‘‘Great and Horrible Rumour’’: Shaping the English Revolt of 1381’, The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt, ed. J. Firnhaber-Baker and D. Schoenaers (2016), p. 84.

S. Federico, ‘The Imaginary Society: Women in 1381’, Journal of British Studies, vol. 40, no. 2 (2001), pp. 159-183.

J. Barker, England Arise The People, the King and the Great Revolt of 1381 (2014)

To cite this page:

Lacey, Helen, “The People of 1381,” Middle Ages for Educators, July 22, 2020. Accessed [date].

Asynchronous Digital Activities Course Materials Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Linguistic, Literary, and Manuscript History with The Digital Grave, by Leah Pope Parker

Leah Pope Parker, University of Southern Mississippi


Digital Grave

Discussion Questions

  • What perception of death and dead bodies is suggested by this poem?
  • What kind of reading practices are suggested by the addition of the final three lines of the poem? Why would a reader add these lines?
  • Why would a poem like this be added to a manuscript that otherwise contains no poetry, and is primarily a collection of homilies?

Further Reading

Kitson, Peter R. “Old English Dialects and the Stages of the Transition to Middle English.” Folia Linguistica Historica: Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae, vol. 11, no. 1–2, 1992, pp. 27–87.

Siebert, Eve. “A Possible Source for the Addition to The Grave.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, vol. 19, no. 4, Sept. 2006, pp. 8–16.

Thompson, Victoria. Dying and Death in Late Anglo-Saxon England. The Boydell Press, 2004.

Treharne, Elaine M. Living through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020–1220. Oxford University Press, 2012.

To Cite this Page

Parker, Leah Pope, “Linguistic, Literary, and Manuscript History with The Digital Grave,” Middle Ages for Educators, July 22, 2020. Accessed [date].,-literary,-and-manuscript-history-with-the-digital-grave,-by-leah-pope-parker

For feedback, please tweet to @ParkerChronicle

Asynchronous Digital Activities Course Materials Online Teaching

Women of 1000 AD, by Meg Hyland

Meg Hyland

MSc, University of Edinburgh

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the benefits for medievalists of learning about what was going on in the Americas at the same time? What are the drawbacks of bringing the Americas under the “medieval” umbrella? Consider the existing archaeological periodizations of the Americas as well as the effects on Native peoples today.
  2. What does historical reconstruction art offer that more traditional academic output might not? What compromises must an artist make that a historian writing an article or book might not have to think about or might not accept?
  3. How are medieval women and historical women of colour represented in art you’ve been exposed to, whether in public art, pop culture or textbooks?
  4. Looking through the stories on this website, did anything surprise you about the options women had open to them or the roles women could play in their societies?


Women of 1000 AD website

Further Reading

Sheridan, Sara. Where Are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland. Historic Environment Scotland (2019).

Clados, Christine. Reconstructing the Pre-Columbian World. University of Wisconsin Madison (2004).

Global Middle Ages Project

Sources for images

Godlewski, Włodzimierz, “Bishops and Kings. The official program of the Pachoras (Faras) Cathedrals”, Between the Cataracts. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference for Nubian Studies Warsaw University 27 August-2 September 2006. Part 1. Main Papers (2008), pp. 263-282.

Korpisaari, Antti, and Martti Pärssinen, Pariti: The Ceremonial Tiwanaku Pottery of an Island in Lake Titicaca. Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters (2011).

To Cite This Page

Hyland, Meg. “Women of 1000 AD,” Middle Ages for Educators, July 18, 2020. Accessed[date]. /

Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Music and the Black Plague in Tuscany, by Eleonora Beck

Eleonora Beck, Lewis & Clark College

Primary Sources

Detail from The Triumph of Death, by Buonamico Buffalmacco, fresco, Campo Santo, Pisa, c. 1338-39

And full image with details The Three Dead and the Three Living (on the left) and The Triumph of Death, fresco, Campo Santo, Pisa, c. 1338-39

Effects of Good Government on the City Life, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, fresco, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 1338.

Audio Source

Per Tropo Fede

Digital Resource

Decameron Web

Discussion Questions

  1. What kind of music did Florentines listen to as they battled the Black Plague?
  2. Why is music so prominent in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Effects of Good Government and the Decameron of Boccaccio?
  3. What can we learn from the 14th century in our battle against the Corona virus?

To Cite this Page

Beck, Eleanora, “Music and the Black Plague in Tuscany,” Middle Ages for Educators, May 6, 2020. Accessed[date].,-by-eleonora-beck/

Asynchronous Digital Activities

Interactive Map of a French Peasants’ Revolt – The Jacquerie of 1358, by Justine Firnhaber-Baker

Justine Firnhaber-Baker, University of St. Andrews


Digital Map Resource, The Jacquerie Revolt of 1358

Discussion Questions

  • In the video, I talk about unequal taxation, partly as a result of the Black Death, as one cause of anti-noble feeling among commoners. How else might demographic decline have destabilized social relations?
  • How different was urban and rural life for late medieval commoners? What kinds of tensions might have arisen between urban and rural rebels as a result?
  • In addition to Paris, other northern French towns, such as Senlis, Amiens, Orléans, and Rouen, had involvement in the revolt. What can you tell about their actions based on the map?

Further resources

Translations of some sources for the Jacquerie in Samuel K. Cohn, jr., Popular Protest in Late Medieval Europe: Italy, France, and Flanders, Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester, 2004), pp. 143-200.

Further Reading

Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Eponymous Jacquerie: Making Revolt Mean Some Things,” in The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt, ed. Justine Firnhaber-Baker with Dirk Schoenaers (Abingdon and New York, 2017), pp. 55-75.

Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “Soldiers, Villagers, and Politics: Military Violence and the Jacquerie of 1358,” in Routiers et mercenaires pendant la guerre de Cent ans: Hommage à Jonathan Sumption, ed. Guilhem Pépin, Françoise Lainé, and Frédéric Boutoulle (Bordeaux, 2016), pp. 101-14.

Coming soon!

Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Social Constituency of the Jacquerie Revolt of 1358.” Speculum, vol. 95, no. 3 (2020).

Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, The Jacquerie Revolt of 1358: Violence, Politics, and Society in Medieval France, Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (Oxford, 2021).

To Cite this Page

Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Jacquerie Revolt of 1358,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 27, 2020. Accessed[date].,-by-justine-firnhaber-baker/

Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Late Medieval Pardon Letters, by Quentin Verreycken

Quentin Verreycken Saint-Louis University, Brussels

*Warning:* This video contains some graphic and disturbing descriptions which may not be suitable for all viewers.

Primary Source Document

A translation of the remission letter granted to Antonie van Claerhout in 1455 can be found in Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble. Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2015, p. 116–18.

Discussion questions

1. Read a pardon letter or a petition for pardon. What do you notice about the rhetorical techniques and legal arguments used by the petitioner to support their demand for pardon?

2. How is violence described in pardon letters? What does that tell us about the medieval attitudes to violence?

3. Why could it be in the interest of a king or a prince to grant pardons? Does the late medieval use of pardoning threaten to deteriorate public order?

4. To what extent was royal pardon connected to the Christian notions of justice and mercy? Check the related vocabulary used in a pardon letter to elaborate on this question.

Online Resources

The Himanis Project website, transcribing and indexing some of the French Trésor des chartes that recorded remission letters.

The Calendars of the patent rolls preserved in the Public record office, available on the HathiTrust website, describe royal pardons granted by the English Crown.

Petitions for pardon submitted to the king of England are accessible on The National Archives website, Special Collection: Ancient Petitions.

Modern editions of French remission letters can be found in the online collections of the Actes royaux du Poitou (1302-1464) and the Lettres de pardon de la chancellerie de Bretagne.

Further Reading

Davis, Natalie Zemon, Fiction in the Archives. Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1987.

Gauvard, Claude, « De grace especial ». Crime, État et société en France à la fin du Moyen Âge, 2 vols., Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 1991.

Lacey, Helen, The Royal Pardon: Access to Mercy in Fourteenth-Century England, York, York Medieval Press, 2009.

Skoda, Hannah, Medieval Violence: Physical Brutality in Northern France, 1270–1330, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Verreycken, Quentin, “‘En nous humblement requerant’: Crime Narrations and Rhetorical Strategies in Late Medieval Pardon Letters,Open Library of Humanities, 5 (1): 62, 2019, p. 1–31.

Verreycken, Quentin, “The Power to Pardon in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: New Perspectives in the History of Crime and Criminal Justice,History Compass, 2019, e12575.

To Cite this Page

Verreycken, Quentin. “Late Medieval Pardon Letters,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 19, 2020. Accessed[date].,-by-quentin-verreycken/

Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Talking Animals: Medieval Fables, and Robert Henryson’s “Preaching of the Swallow,” by Karl Steel

Karl Steel, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Primary Sources

Robert Henryson’s version of the fable, “The Preaching of the Swallow,” is available in David J. Parkinson’s edition of Henryson’s poetry for the TEAMS Middle English texts series. It is in Middle Scots, a language spoken in lowland Scotland from roughly 1450 to 1700 (if you would like to read a Wikipedia entry about this language written in Scots, see here). As Professor Jennifer Brown explains here, “This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English,” or in this case, Middle Scots, “making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.”

If, however, you would like the assistance of a translation into modern English, you can check out George Gopen’s 1987 translation of Henryson’s fables from Gopen’s introduction is very smart, a good guide on thinking through the structure of Henryson’s fable collection, and how to read them.

British Library, Harley MS 3865, f. 43v-49v. The entire manuscript can be viewed through the British Library’s “Digitised Manuscripts” website. You might want to compare the illustration in Harley MS 3865 to an illustration from a fifteenth-century French manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Smith-Lesouëf, 68, XV, 34v). 

It might surprise you that manuscripts were still being made, for example, during the life of Shakespeare, but Harley MS 3865 is, in fact, a handwritten copy of a collection of Robert Henryson’s fables printed in 1571 by the Edinburgh printer Thomas Bassandyne (interestingly, Harley MS 3865 may have been based on a extensively illustrated version of Bassandyne’s edition, which is now lost). If you have access to Early English Books online, you can explore the surviving copy of Bassandyne’s curious book. It’s not easy to read: much of it is printed in a now very rarely used typeface called “Civilité,” based on a late medieval and early modern “lettre courante” hand, designed in France by Robert Granjon (d. 1590) to be used in books for children. Surprisingly, the morals of the fables are printed in a Roman typeface”

Other useful tools for teaching and research 

The fundamental story of the Swallow fable is very old. Like most of the old fables, it was told and retold, and often refashioned, through the Middle Ages (and likely into the present day!). Medieval Latin versions of the fable are therefore easy to come by, for example, here and here. You might also want to read a translation of a twelfth-century French version by Marie de France: her version is notable for the treachery of various birds. You can find links to additional versions on the website, here, and through the Aesop wiki. Here is Laura Gibb’s translation of an early version of the fable into Modern English for the Oxford World Classics series


Some birds who had flocked together saw a man sowing flax seed but they thought nothing of it. The swallow, however, understood what this meant. She called an assembly of the birds and explained that this was an altogether dangerous situation, but the other birds just laughed at her. When the flax seed sprouted, the swallow warned the birds again, ‘This is something dangerous; let’s go and pull it up. If it is allowed to grow, people will make it into nets and we will not able to escape the traps that they devise.’ The birds mocked the swallow’s words and scorned her advice. So the swallow went to the people and began to make her nest only under the roofs of their houses. Meanwhile, the other birds refused to heed the swallow’s warnings, so now they are constantly being trapped in nets and snares.

Charmingly, the Wikipedia page on Henryson’s Fables includes a photograph of a swallow along with the bird’s characteristic song.

The Middle English Dictionary can help you with reading Henryson. Henryson uses the word “pennis” for “feathers,” for example (from the Latin penna, which is where we get our modern word “pen”): here is the Middle English Dictionary entry for that word.

For comparison, you might explore the literary genre of animal complaints against humans. Here are two:

The Case of the Animals versus Man Before the King of the Jinn: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistle 22 (Oxford University Press, 2012), ed. and trans. Lenn E. Goodman and Richard McGregor

Martin Luther, “Complaint of the Birds,” in The Letters of Martin Luther (MacMillan and Co, 1908), trans. Margaret E. Currie 

Discussion Questions

  1. Consider the variations between the fables. What is the base form of the story, and what changes get made? Especially, what’s significant or interesting about Henryson including a human eyewitness within the fable itself, who sees what happens without being able to change the outcome?
  2. Compare the two illustrations. Harley 3865’s is very unusual: why represent the swallow as an actual human preacher? Why is the farmer just represented by a hand?
  3.  Consider the print and manuscript context (you might want to offer a little book or typeface history). The social register of different typefaces might be very interesting to talk about: why a roman typeface for the morals, and civilité for the stories?

Creative Exercise

Since antiquity, the fable tradition has involved rewriting and remediating fables. Can you imagine a modern version of this fable? Would you tell the same story? Would it still feature a prudent, but frustrated swallow and heedless small birds, or perhaps other animals (would, in fact, you prefer to tell the story with something other than birds)? Or would you illustrate the story, perhaps either in one panel (like the manuscript) or maybe in a multi-panel version? Would you include a witness to the fable (like Henryson)? Who would it be? And would your prudent character, like the swallow in some versions of the story, decide to give up on birds and — as one Latin version has it — “ad homines se transtulit” [to go over to the humans]?

Further Reading

Animal Encounters: Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), Susan Crane.

From Aesop to Reynard: Beast Literature in Medieval Britain (Oxford University Press, 2009), Jill Mann.

Marie de France, Fables (University of Toronto Press, 1987), trans. Harriet Spiegel.

“Medieval,” in The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman (Cambridge University Press, 2017), ed. Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini, article by Karl Steel.

Stealing a Corpus: Appropriating Aesop’s Body in the Early Age of Print,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 12.2 (2018), Alex Mueller.

The Powerpoint

You can access it here.

PDF of this material.

To Cite this Page

Steel, Karl. “Talking Animals: Medieval Fables, and Robert Henryson’s “Preaching of the Swallow,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 8, 2020. Accessed[date].

Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, by Jennifer N. Brown

Jennifer N. Brown, English and World Literatures, Marymount Manhattan College

Primary Sources

The TEAMS text of The Book of Margery Kempe, edited by Lynn Staley. This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.

The TEAMS text of The Shewings of Julian of Norwich, edited by Georgia Ronan Crampton. As with the Kempe edition, it is a student friendly edition of the text.

Other useful tools for teaching and research

For images and to teach some book history, the British Library has images online of Additional MS 33790, the “short text” of the Julian of Norwich’s Revelations; Stowe MS 42, the “long text” of Julian’s work; and Additional MS 61823, which has The Book of Margery Kempe.

A facing page facsimile of Margery Kempe’s book and its transcription are available here through the Kempe Project. This is great if you are teaching some paleography.

You can get a sense of medieval Norwich here through The Medieval Churches of Norwich Project, including the location of Julian’s church. The website has lots of useful links to images and maps.

The Middle English Dictionary, to not only look up Middle English words, but also see where else they appear in Middle English texts through the Compendium

The Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, through which you can search a word in English or Latin, as well as having facing page translations of the two languages.

Discussion Questions

Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe are two women writing at the same time and more or less the same place (indeed, we know they met one another from an episode recounted in The Book of Margery Kempe). However, their styles and content are extremely different. How does Julian’s position as an anchoress and Margery’s as a wife, traveler, and layperson shape what they say and how they say it? What differences do you detect in the fact Julian wrote her text and Margery dictated hers?

In what ways do each of these texts challenge your views of what women did and said in medieval England? Are there ways in which the texts support what you already thought about medieval women?

Creative exercise

We know so little about the encounter between Julian and Margery. How do you imagine it went? Can you construct a dialogue using their respective texts as a basis?

Further Reading

To Cite this Page

Brown, Jennifer N. “Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich,” Middle Ages for Educators, April 6, 2020. Accessed [date].

Asynchronous Digital Activities Course Materials

Tips for Teaching Medieval Studies Online, by Ken Mondschein

To cite this page:

Mondschein, Kenneth. “Tips for Teaching Medieval Studies Online” Middle Ages for Educators, March 24, 2020. Accessed [date].‎(opens in a new tab)

Asynchronous Digital Activities

Chaucer and Material Culture, by Emily Steiner

UPenn professor Emily Steiner suggested the following online activity for a class on Chaucer and material culture:

In a follow up tweet, she explained: “I suggested three websites [for them to consult]: @metmuseum, Walters, Victoria and Albert. They first watched a powerpoint I made about medieval purses to get the idea, but that’s not necessary to do the assignment.”

Great idea! Thanks Professor Steiner!