Medieval Hansard awaited

January 19, 1996

The spotlight is to shine again on life in medieval England with the first translation of the original parliamentary Hansard.

The Leverhulme Trust has awarded more than Pounds 306,000, one of its largest ever grants for university research, to a five-year project headed by Christopher Given-Wilson, chairman of St Andrews University's department of mediaeval history.

This will produce a new edition of the Rotuli Parliamentorum, or Parliament Rolls, the official records of all the business carried out by the English parliaments from 18 to 1503. There was on average one parliament a year, lasting for three to four weeks, and presided over by the monarch.

The only previous edition of the Rotuli Parliamentorum was published in 1783. It is now out of print, and is also inaccessible to many scholars, as it is written in the original medieval French, Latin and Middle English.

"It is a very incomplete edition," Dr Given-Wilson said. "It is basically accurate, but an awful lot of additional parliamentary material has been discovered since then in the British Library and Public Record Office."

The new edition will be a translation and transcription of the original documents, and will be published in around 30 volumes, with parallel text and translation. It will also be available on CD-Rom.

Five other distinguished historians will join Dr Given-Wilson in editing the volumes: Paul Brand of London University, Anne Curry of Reading, Rosemary Horrox of Cambridge, Geoffrey Martin, former keeper of public records, and Mark Ormrod of York University.

Dr Given-Wilson predicts that the project will stimulate further research. "When new editions come out and are more widely available, people tend to read them more carefully, and see things that they missed before," he said.

There will be no shortage of topics: legislation dealt with almost every aspect of social, economic, political and religious life. "There are great matters of state, state trials, taxation, and a lot of local history, such as quarrels between Yarmouth and Lowestoft about the operation of the herring trade," Dr Given-Wilson said.

The project will start in January 1997 after the Public Record Office moves to Kew Gardens.

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