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MEDVL 1101-105: Young Idiots vs. Toxic Elders (Spring 2017): Encyclopedias

A guide to library research


Encyclopedias are great for:

  • choosing a topic
  • educating yourself quickly
  • perspective on a topic
  • variant spellings, vocabulary, terminology
  • bibliography


English Language and its history

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)  The dictionary that is scholar's preferred source; it goes far beyond definitions.



Oxford Bibliographies Online

Offers peer-reviewed annotated bibliographies on a variety of topics including Classical civilization, Archaeology, Medieval civilization, etc.


Cambridge Histories Online

Cambridge Histories Online

Excellent resource. Full text. Chapters as pdfs. Extremely high quality essays with rich footnotes and bibliography.

Medieval Encyclopedias

Specialized Scholarly Subject Encyclopedias: Middle Ages & Renaissance

Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Dictionary of the Middle Ages. 12 vols. 1982-1988. (Olin Reference D 114 D55+)
Articles cover roughly the years 500-1500 A.D. in the lands of the Latin West, the Slavic world, Asia Minor, the lands of the Caliphate in the East, and the Muslim-Christian areas of North Africa. Some entries are only of definition length (e.g. Avignon), but others are more historical and lengthy (e.g. Byzantine Empire, Constantine I, Arms and Armor). Bibliographies are mostly in English.

Encyclopedia of traditional epics (Olin Library Reference Oversize PN56.E65 E64x 1994 +)

The Catholic encyclopedia (Olin Library Oversize BX841 .C36 +) and The New Catholic Encyclopedia
Goes beyond the subject of Catholicism to include science, literature, art and civilization. Articles sometimes include bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England. 2nd ed.
People, places, social groups. Most articles contain concise bibliographies.

Medieval Italy: an encyclopedia (Olin Library Reference DG443 .M43x 2004 +)

Medieval England: An Encyclopedia. 1998.(Olin Reference DA 129 .M43x 1998)
Articles vary in length but all are accompanied by bibliographies.


Flicker photo by teachernz

Less specialized but superior to Wikipedia on most topics & disciplines:


Gale virtual reference library 

Sage Reference Online

Oxford Reference Online