The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages is a major new reference resource for all key aspects of European history, society, religion, and culture from circa 500 CE to circa 1500 CE. During this time, neighboring areas of Asia and North Africa greatly influenced and helped shape the civilization of the West. Relevant aspects of the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic dynasties, and Asiatic peoples such as the Avars and the Mongols are also included in this comprehensive work. Coverage spanning the whole geographical extent of the European Middle Ages and balanced treatments of sixteen topics centrally important to the study of the period distinguish The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages from all other resources on the subject.
Over 800 scholars, guided by a five-member international advisory board and an international editorial board of twenty-six, have written the over 5,000 entries that make up this extraordinary four-volume set. These entries have been lavishly supplemented by more than 500 illustrations and 40 maps. This dictionary will appeal to both medievalists needing a detailed and reliable reference tool for their own research and teaching, and non-specialists needing an accessible guide to the study of the Middle Ages.
2011 Booklist Editors' Choice
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Robert E. Bjork is Foundation Professor of English and Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) at Arizona State University. He was General Editor of Modern Scandinavian Literature in Translation from 1984 to 1994; Co-Editor of Studies in Scandinavian Literature and Culture from 1992 to 2001, and has been Director and General Editor of Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (ACMRS) and General Editor of Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance since 1996. He's been a Visiting Fellow at St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, and a Visiting Professor of English at UCLA. His published work includes translations of seven books on Old English Poetry and translations of seven modern Swedish novels. He was President of the International Society of Anglo-Saxons 2002-3, and is a Corresponding Fellow of the English Association and and a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America.
*Starred Review* Scribner’s 13-volume Dictionary of the Middle Ages (DMA) (1982–1989; Supplement 1, 2004) retains its position as the premier reference work on the medieval period. An equivalent concise, affordable resource did not exist until publication of The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages (ODMA). The ODMA is the work of an extraordinary assembly of scholars. Editor Bjork is director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Contributors represent prestigious universities worldwide, from the University of Sydney to the Institute of Icelandic Studies. Summaries of contributors’ research on, for example, “Anglo-Saxon understandings of dreams” and “penitent prostitutes” function as invitations to explore the set. The ODMA’s 5,000 entries range in length from one or two sentences (Gargoyle, Drollery) to 10,000 or more words and are consistently well written. Like Supplement 1 to the DMA, the ODMA encompasses areas of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well as topics of current scholarship, such as gender studies and Islam. Entries include individuals (Attila, Hildegard of Bingen); technical terms (Hammer beam, squinch); and places (Sutton Hoo). Each entry includes at least one bibliographic citation; longer entries list dozens of primary sources, valuable classic works, and recent scholarship. More than 500 illustrations include black-and-white photographs, diagrams, illustrations, and maps. Images of manuscripts are especially welcome, such as those accompanying Herbs and herbals and Surgeons and surgery. Maps are both political and thematic (for example, “The Spread of the Black Death Plague”). The ODMA provides three access tools: the A–Z arrangement of the entries themselves, a thematic index, and a general index. The thematic index lists articles within the categories of “Country and Place Names,” “Culture,” “Historical Context and Inquiry,” and “Society.” Although this provides a good conceptual overview of the set, it is difficult to identify a specific article unless one can figure out the appropriate category. The general index includes individuals, events, and “some’” subject coverage. It omits many major entries with the brief explanation that readers should consult entries in the set first. Readers who miss the explanation may wonder why there is nothing on alchemy, witchcraft, or women—all lengthy entries within the set. The ODMA is the best concise medieval encyclopedia currently available, highly recommended for academic and large public libraries. It is also available online as part of the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf. --Christine Whittington
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