Reading the Past: An Introduction to Medieval Records


This weekend school will enable those keen to undertake research using original historical documents to begin reading the scripts used prior to 1550. This will help participants to unlock a huge wealth of material which can be used in local, family and social history.

We will look in detail at the main scripts in use across this period, through practical examples from common record types. The principal focus will be on documents written in Latin, although some in English will also be studied. The course will also cover the historical development of palaeography (study of handwriting) and diplomatic (study of documents and recordkeeping). The course will provide the opportunity to cover both theoretical and practical aspects of reading medieval handwriting.

We will also look at medieval records more generally, as well as at how records were made, written and stored in the medieval period. The course tutor is an experienced archivist and she will use documents from collections she has worked with as examples, as well as some published sources. 

Teaching methods will range from lecture-style talks on theory and historical context, as well as in-depth practical sessions focusing on reading documents, either individually, in pairs or as a class. We will cover a wide range of common document types (title deeds, correspondence, accounts, manorial records). We will also look at strategies and tips as well as key reference resources. 

No prior knowledge is assumed, and those who already have some experience of medieval/early modern palaeography will also find this course a useful refresher and an opportunity to develop their reading skills further. No prior knowledge of Latin is required, although this will be useful.

By the end of the weekend, students will be able to: 

1. recognise and read letter shapes

2. understand dating and abbreviation methods

3. be confident in starting to read and understand original documents prior to 1550

4. develop strategies in reading and analysing unfamiliar original texts 

5. understand how documents were made, written and stored in the medieval period.

A follow-up study weekend, Reading the Past: Medieval Handwriting, will be offered on 8/9 June 2024, which will focus more on gaining additional practical experience of reading original documents.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 10 January 2024.

Programme details

Saturday 13 January 2024


Theory 1: Introduction to medieval records


Theory 2: Palaeography in depth


Practical 1: English correspondence


Theory 3: Abbreviations and dating documents

End of day

Dinner (optional)

Sunday 14 January 2024

Breakfast (residents only)

Theory 3: Making and keeping medieval records


Practical 2: Deeds and charters


Practical 3: Accounts


Practical 4: Manorial records; further resources

End of weekend


Description Costs
Course Fee (includes tea/coffee) £190.00
Saturday baguette lunch £6.50
Saturday dinner £26.00
Saturday hot lunch (3 courses) £17.60
Single B&B (Saturday night) £101.40
Single room only (Saturday night) £87.20
Sunday baguette lunch £6.50
Sunday hot lunch (3 courses) £17.60


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Charlotte Berry

Charlotte qualified as an archivist in 2001 and is a Fellow of the Archives and Records Association, the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries of London. She has worked extensively with medieval collections at Hereford Cathedral and Magdalen College Oxford. She was recently appointed as the Head of Collection Services at the National Museums of Scotland.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Saturday night only. If you would like to book a double or a twin room, please email

Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay, please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices.

All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.