How to look for records of... Medieval political history
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to help you find records of medieval political history. The National Archives holds important collections relating to the political life of this period.
Many of the most important medieval records have been published, or have detailed lists and indexes. However, they are not all catalogued and indexed, and some may therefore be difficult to search.
What do I need to know before I start?
Most of the records relating to medieval political history held at The National Archives are in the records of the Exchequer (E) and Chancery (C). Chancery was the source of the king’s formal instructions, and originated orders to the king’s officers and courts to transact business on behalf of his subjects. From 1199 Chancery enrolments were introduced – a system of creating registers of important official documents.
In medieval England no single official or institution had overall responsibility for foreign affairs. Chancery dealt with the administration of treaties and letters and the Exchequer with the financial aspects of diplomacy. As a result documents relating to the external policy of the England can be found in a number of disparate record series. These documents are usually written in Latin or French using medieval abbreviations.
Many diplomatic documents are transcribed, in their original language, in Rymer’s Foedera.