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Medieval Petitions: A Catalogue of the 'Ancient Petitions' in the National Archives 

University of York, Centre for Medieval Studies

Medieval Petitions

The series 'Ancient Petitions' in The National Archives: Public Record Office consists of over 17,500 petitions presented to the English crown, most of them dating between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries.

Petitions represent the authentic voice of the subjects of the medieval English state. They deal with matters that could not be resolved at common law and required some application of the king's special grace; they therefore tell us much about attitudes to, and the extent of, public authority in the later Middle Ages. They also provide a wealth of incidental material about social conventions and political culture. The formal statement of grievance that lies at the heart of each petition includes detailed information about the circumstances of the petitioner and other parties, and the conditions of the locality. Since they were written in at least three different languages (Latin, Anglo-Norman French, Middle English), and were composed according to recognised and evolving formulae, these petitions can reveal much about the history of language and the discourse of political complaint in later medieval England.

The Project

Medieval Petitions is designed to provide the first comprehensive survey and on-line search facility for the series 'Ancient Petitions' in The National Archives: Public Record Office. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through its Resource Enhancement Scheme (in two awards, the first of £291,984 over three years from 1 April 2003, and the second of £124,245 over fourteen months from 1 April 2006) and supported by the University of York and The National Archives.

The project will result in the provision of detailed search facilities for 'Ancient Petitions' available on The National Archives: Public Record Office website both through PROCAT (The National Arrchives' main catalogue) and Documents Online (which has its own search facility). In addition, Documents Online will provide facsimiles of the 17,629 documents contained in the series. Approximately 13,000 entries are already available and searchable via The National Archives' Catalogue and the project will progressively load remaining Catalogue entries, together with material in DocumentsOnline, over the period to the summer of 2007.

Project Staff

  • Director: Prof. Mark Ormrod, University of York
  • Deputy Director: Dr Gwilym Dodd, University of Nottingham
  • National Archives Representative: Dr David Crook, The National Archives; Dr Malcolm Mercer, The National Archives
  • Research Assistants: Dr Simon Harris, University of York; Dr Shelagh Sneddon, University of York
  • Additional Assistants: Dr Jonathan Mackman, London; Mrs Lisa Liddy, Durham
  • Advisory Board:
    • Prof. Chris Given-Wilson, University of St Andrews
    • Dr Anthony Musson, University of Exeter
    • Prof. Tony Pollard, University of Teesside
    • Dr Sarah Rees Jones, University of York (chair)
    • Mr Chris Webb, University of York
    • Prof. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, University of York

Further Information

Please contact the project's e-mail account or the website of the Centre for Medieval Studies.