Brill’s Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

Get access Subject: History

Edited by: Gert Melville and Martial Staub.

Brill's Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Online offers an accessible yet engaging coverage of medieval European history and culture, c. 500-c. 1500, in a series of themed articles, taking an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. Presenting a broad range of topics current in research, the encyclopedia is dedicated to all aspects of medieval life, organized in eight sections: Society; Faith and Knowledge; Literature; Fine Arts and Music; Economy; Technology; Living Environment and Conditions; and Historical Events and Regions. This thematic structure makes the encyclopedia a true reference work for Medieval Studies as a whole. It is accessible and concise enough for quick reference, while also providing a solid grounding in a new topic with a good level of detail, since many of its articles are longer than traditional encyclopedia entries. The encyclopedia is supported by an extensive bibliography, updated with the most recent works and adapted to suit the needs of an Anglophone audience.

Brill's Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages Online is a unique work, and invaluable equally for research and for teaching. Anyone interested in the art, architecture, economy, history, language, law, literature, music, religion, or science of the Middle Ages, will find the encyclopedia an indispensible resource.  

This is an English translation of the second edition (2013) of the well-known German-language Enzyklopädie des Mittelalters, published by Primus Verlag / Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

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Magic, Sorcery, Witchcraft

(2,230 words)

Author(s): Gerd Schwerhoff
The classics of ethnology and sociology (J.G. Frazer, E.B. Tylor, E. Durkheim, B. Malinowski) understood by "magic" a principle of thought and action that could be clearly distinguished both from scie…
Date: 2016-08-09


(2,965 words)

Author(s): Werner Rösener
The significance of manorialism for medieval society is self-evident. Manorialism constituted the economic basis of the secular and ecclesiastical elites, for rule, administration, and culture. In the…
Date: 2016-08-09


(1,630 words)

Author(s): Arnold Angenendt
As general basic constants in premodern marriage we may list: arrangement by parents or the clan, the legal dominance of the husband, and his greater freedom of movement in extramarital sexuality as w…
Date: 2016-10-18

Marriage Prohibitions and Exogamy, Marriage Prohibitions and Endogamy

(996 words)

Author(s): Bernhard Jussen
The second instrument of relationship regulation that was significant for Latin European history were the marriage prohibitions that suddenly appeared in the 6th and 7th centuries and then were very q…
Date: 2016-08-09

Martial Games

(1,401 words)

Author(s): Torsten Hiltmann
The earliest reliable evidence for the staging of tournaments dates from the first third of the 12th century. Originating in northern France and Normandy, by the 13th century at the latest they had sp…
Date: 2016-08-09


(685 words)

Author(s): Klaus Schreiner
Mary has many faces. The Evangelists describe her as Jewish wife and mother, who believed in her divine election and brought Jesus, the Christian Messiah and Redeemer, into the world. Theological narr…
Date: 2016-08-09

Masonry in Building Construction

(1,491 words)

Author(s): Thomas Hänseroth
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, building with masonry meant building for eternity, with complex symbolic implications. The symbolic character of stone buildings helped their architects and instituti…
Date: 2016-08-09


(3,363 words)

Author(s): Arnold Angenendt
Sacrifice is a primary act in all religion. People make sacrifices to God/gods because they want to achieve more than is humanly possible, things that only more powerful beings are able to give: rich …
Date: 2016-08-09

Master Builder and Universal Genius

(1,379 words)

Author(s): Eberhard König
The advantage which medieval masters had over their fellow men was reflected in the attribution of the Hildesheim Cathedral doors to the saintly Bishop Bernward. Bernward had been to Rome and had work…
Date: 2016-08-09

Medicine and Healthcare

(2,127 words)

Author(s): Kay Peter Jankrift
Medieval medicine and healthcare were based on the teachings of classical Greco-Roman medicine. Particularly influential were the writings of Hippocrates of Kos (c. 460-370 BCE) and of Galen of Pergam…
Date: 2016-08-09

Medieval Literature – Theory and Practice

(5,354 words)

Author(s): Stephan Müller | Norbert Kössinger
Literature in the Middle Ages between Theory and Practice What is understood by "literature?" The answer will differ widely depending on the period and cultural contexts in which this question is raised. In mo…
Date: 2016-08-09

Medieval Literature – Theory and Practice: Contents

(53 words)

Introduction 1 Latin Literature Latin Literary Traditions and Text-Typological Models Latin Literature and its Relationship to the Vernacular Literary Production Development through the Middle Ages Reception 2 Ve…
Date: 2016-09-20

Men and Women's Clothing

(2,483 words)

Author(s): Gabriela Signori
We shall begin with the obvious. "Clothes make the man" was what the peasant's son Helmbrecht thought in the 13th century, setting on his curly blond hair an artistically decorated cap with parrots, d…
Date: 2016-10-17

Merchants, Bankers, and Entrepreneurs

(2,176 words)

Author(s): Jörg Oberste
The Early Middle Ages The term "commercial revolution" (R. Lopez) has become established for the time between the mid-11th and 13th centuries, since in this period the economic, social, and political coor…
Date: 2016-08-09

Messengers, Diplomacy, Heralds

(1,430 words)

Author(s): Stephan Müller
Our knowledge of medieval messaging seems contradictory: on the one hand it is true that the conveyance of news was not yet an institution; on the other hand, functioning means of long-distance commun…
Date: 2016-08-09