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British Museum Collections Online

Searchable database of tens of thousands of images and records of objects in the British Museum collection, spanning thousands of years and from all across the world.

* National History Day Selected Resource *

Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Project

Cloth and clothing have been integral to life for every person since civilization began.

In the Middle Ages dress was an identifier of occupation, status, gender and ethnicity; textiles ranged through opulent, symbolic, utilitarian and recycled. Cloth production and international trade constituted a major sector of the economy of medieval Britain.

Evidence for medieval textiles and clothing is sought in diverse academic disciplines: archaeology, archaeological textiles, art history, economic history, literature, languages.

The vocabulary of the various languages spoken and written in the British Isles is documented in different specialist dictionaries, yet geographical proximity and interaction through labour and trade would argue that this evidence should be categorised and analysed together.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council made an award of £765,576 within the Research Grants (Standard) Scheme to fund a 5-year Project to undertake a trans-disciplinary study with the purpose of  producing an analytical corpus of medieval dress and textiles terminology of the British Isles in the form of a searchable database, innovatively illustrated.

At its centre was the assembly and examination of textiles/clothing lexis in the early languages of Britain (Old and Middle English; Welsh, Old Irish and minor Celtic languages; Anglo-Norman/French, Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norse), investigating the genesis and subsequent development of the vocabulary.

The terms and their citations from both documentary and literary texts have been analysed in awareness of surviving textiles/dress accessories and graphic images in medieval art.


From the reviewer:

This website represents an ambitious project – “lexis” being the total stock of words in a language – in this case we are looking at words specific to the British Isles. The sections that focus on words are the best – the Dictionaries tab and the Search the Database are useful and provide data. The Gallery tab provides detailed photographs. The Research tab leads to interesting books – they are mostly dated from 2006 -2012, however.

Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

Searchable annotated bibliography of over 5000 modern print and online editions of medieval primary sources, intended for a broad audience including high school and college level instructors as well as more advanced scholars or enthusiasts. 

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