Medieval Writing
Categories of Documents
The classification of documents is perhaps not a very scientific process, but we can set out some categories which will help us to understand how the medieval literate legal and administrative process worked. These categories will be refined as the section progresses. While various classes of documents are identified by scholars, their classification into some sort of hierarchical tree seems somewhat at variance. The various categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive and the relationships between them reveal something of the literate workings of medieval society. Our main priority here is to work out what terms mean, how particular legal or administrative processes were carried out and how records were kept.
General information on these topics can be obtained from van Caenegem 1978 also Elton 1969 also Clanchy 1993 also Bagley 1972 also Bischoff 1990 also Johnson and Jenkinson 1915 also Jenkinson 1927also Galbraith 1949 and Galbraith 1952.

Letters of authority

Legal documents

Governmental records

Financial records

  • English Exchequer records
  • Surveys and rentals
  • Town records
  • Manorial accounts
  • Monastic accounts
  • Business accounts
  • Household accounts

Ecclesiastical records

Institutional or private records

  • Cartularies and registers
  • Guild records
  • Heraldic records

Legal records

  • Lists and rules
  • Formularies
  • Court rolls
  • Year books
  • Statute books
  • Records of the Inns of Court
  • Manorial court records

Historical records

  • Annals and Chronicles

Personal items

  • Letters
  • Certificates


seal of Edward the Confessor
seal of Bernard of Clairvaux
seal of St Helen's Nunnery, London
Types of Documents
The Written Word

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 14/2/2005.