Review by Choice Review
More than 300 scholars from several countries have collaborated to produce this encyclopedia's 700 signed entries about England from the fifth-century Anglo-Saxon invasions though 1435 (Wales, Scotland, and Ireland are excluded). The encyclopedia lists entries by category, monarchs of England, archbishops of Canterbury and York, popes, musical and liturgical terms, and architectural terms (with illustrations) for castles and churches; maps of counties, sees, and politics accompany the main entries, each of which cites primary and secondary resources and includes cross-references. Intended to be accessible to nonspecialists, the work focuses primarily on language, literature, art, music, liturgy, and history, with a few references to the science and technology of the time. Architecture is particularly well covered, with entries and plans for a wide variety of buildings. Many cities and towns also have their own entries, as do people, events, and concepts. Less well covered are issues of social and economic history; there is no entry for heresy (though there are for both Wyclif and the Lollards), nor for economy, nor for peasants, nor for class (though feudalism and peerage both have entries). Many of these topics are restricted by the lack of source material; nonetheless, the fact that paganism's only entry appears in the context of Old English literature reinforces that the work concerns almost exclusively literary, artistic, and political. Those who own Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. by Joseph R. Strayer (13v., 1982-89), will need this volume only if they want its special focus on medieval England. M. R. Pukkila; Colby College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Edited by, among others, the director of the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, this multidisciplinary encyclopedia is described as "an introduction to the society and culture of England from the coming of the Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century through the accession of the Tudor dynasty (1485) at the turn of the 16th century." Containing more than 700 entries by more than 300 international scholars, the volume encompasses the fields of Old English and Middle English language and literature, music and liturgy, history, and history of art. According to the introduction, it is designed to be accessible to the general reader as well as to the scholar. Entries are arranged alphabetically and vary in length from a few lines to six or seven pages. Some longer entries are divided into subentries. Drama, vernacular, for example, is divided by genre, such as biblical plays and folk drama; while liturgy and church music, history of is divided by period. More than 170 of the entries are biographical, covering such individuals as Alfred the Great, Thomas Becket, Geoffrey Chaucer, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margery Kempe, and Richard III. In addition, the reader will find entries for a host of topics from political history (Battle of Hastings, castles and fortification, treason); social history (chivalry, marriage and marriage law); economic history (agriculture and field systems, fairs and markets); and literature and the arts (Bayeux Tapestry, Piers Plowman, satire, vaulting). All entries conclude with a bibliography, generally divided into primary and secondary sources, and extensive see also references. As stated in the introduction, the content of the bibliographies "has been selected with an eye to accessibility for nonspecialist readers," although a university library would still be the place to go for most of the sources. The A^-Z entries are supported by lists of kings and queens of England, archbishops of Canterbury and York, and popes, 590^-1502, as well as a glossary of musical and liturgical terms. Illustrations include diagrams showing architectural terms, a number of maps copied from other sources, and black-and-white photographs. In addition to the detailed index, there is a useful list of entries arranged by topic, such as "Religious Leaders" and "Musical and Liturgical Forms." Although similar topics are covered in other sources, most notably Macmillan's 13-volume Dictionary of the Middle Ages (1982^-89), this nicely organized volume is unique in its focus on medieval England. In addition, it reflects more recent scholarship in a growing field. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.