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What dictionaries and encyclopedias are needed to understand the history of the Middle Ages and early modern times
What dictionaries and encyclopedias are needed to understand the history of the Middle Ages and early modern times

Scientific information becomes outdated, and articles in encyclopedias and dictionaries last 10 - 15 years. In the era of Wikipedia, reference books have become even less needed. However, Wikipedia, while updating faster, is uneven. There are good articles and there are weak ones. And yet, what do we have today in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age?

We have already told what textbooks and books you need to read to understand the history of the Middle Ages and early modern times, and now it's the turn of dictionaries and encyclopedias. Almost all of the books in this set have already become rare.

1. The medieval world in terms, names and titles. - Minsk, Belarus. E. D. Smirnova L. P. Sushkevich V. A. Fedosik. 1999

The publication of Belarusian historians is useful, first of all, for those who study. The dictionary is small with extremely concise reference information. Sometimes the articles are followed by the shortest bibliography. Classical periodization - V - XV centuries. But there are names, and terms, and titles. So if you already or still do not distinguish the allod from the feud, Karl the Evil from Karl the Bold, do not remember the dates of the reign of all the main European dynasties, in particular, you confuse the Almoravids with the Almohads, then you are welcome - you are here.

At the university, we passed a separate oral terminological test for the Middle Ages, and without this publication it would have been completely impossible. Our teacher specifically advised this dictionary. The test was long and rather scary, and although I passed it successfully, the memories are still difficult. I think some of my classmates also remember this cute book and sincerely hate it, but in vain. She's not bad. I advise.

2. Dictionary of Medieval Culture, edited by A. Ya. Gurevich. M. 2003

From a scientific point of view, this publication is perhaps the most valuable of all that we are talking about today. The chronological period of the Middle Ages is defined in it as a whole classically as the 5th - 15th centuries. Geography is also Western Europe. The concept of culture, on the contrary, is interpreted not orthodoxly, as a set of spiritual and related material values ​​created in the Middle Ages, but more broadly in the mainstream of the school of historical anthropology, to which the authors of this book belong. What is meant? The fact is that anthropologists, studying "primitive" societies, drew attention to the fact that in these societies all aspects of life are closely interconnected, and it is impossible, for example, to separately study the economy of a certain tribe in isolation from the worldview of these people. Thus, the concept of culture began to include "all stable forms of individual behavior in a collective, as well as the behavior of small groups in the context of broader social formations" (p. 6). This comprehensive approach has influenced historians - first of all medievalists, in particular the founders of the famous school of "Annals" Mark Blok and Lucien Febvre, and then on their followers.

This is how the scientific direction of historical anthropology was born, which had a tremendous impact on the development of historical science in the 20th century. A "new historical science" appeared: a new economic history, a new political history, a new social history, a history of mentality, a history of ideas, etc. At the time of publication (the work was actually completed in 1999, although the book was published only in 2003) the book was unique not only for Russian, but also for world medieval studies.Simultaneously with it, a similar edition was published in the West, edited by Jacques Le Goff and Jean-Claude Schmitt.

It should be noted that this is precisely a dictionary of medieval concepts and realities, not an encyclopedia. There are no special articles about people here in particular. The book contains an excellent foreword by the editor-in-chief A. Ya. Gurevich, which, in addition to the above, highlights the concept of feudalism and some other general categories of the European Middle Ages. For example, let's take the first entry in the dictionary - "Autobiography". The article tells about the difference of this genre from the autobiography of the New Age, especially the 19th century, about the peculiarities of the evolution of autobiographical texts from the "Confession" of St. Augustine to the texts of the Renaissance.

Even for a person with a history education, the information is mostly new and extremely interesting. There is a valuable bibliography following the article. I highly recommend this book to everyone. This reading is not entertaining, but very interesting and useful.

3. Historical Lexicon. History in persons and events. V-XIII centuries. Volume 1-2. M. 2006. / Historical lexicon. History in persons and events. XIV –XVI centuries Volume 1-2. M.2006. / Historical Lexicon. History in persons and events. XVII century. M. 2006

This is an encyclopedia for schoolchildren. Ideally, of course, you should have the entire series of "Historical Lexicon", but this is no longer easy. Your humble servant at one time needed a volume on the 17th century (information about the pirate Henry Morgan was needed), but he never got to the others.

As the name implies, we are talking about encyclopedic dictionaries - biographies and major events. Not only Europe is covered, but the whole world. The texts are grouped alphabetically. Popular science style - reminiscent of an essay, but the texts are based on good material and written by serious authors.

This is the case when the reference literature seems to be pleasant and easy to read through and through, and not only when specific data is needed. I strongly advise not only children.

4. History of the Middle Ages: Encyclopedia of Umberto Eco. M. 2015. / Civilization of the Middle Ages. Encyclopedia edited by Umberto Eco. M. 2016

I'll start with the sad one. The books are new, it is not very difficult to get them yet, but these are very expensive books. I personally did not allow myself to buy them yet. More precisely, with the money set aside for one of them, I bought four monographs. However, I managed to look through them a little. The publications are very beautiful and quite informative for popular science literature.

The first book is devoted mainly to the political history of the Middle Ages. The second - to the entire spectrum of features of the Middle Ages as a civilization, from the development of society and economy to everyday life and spiritual quests. These two volumes of the encyclopedia are part of a project by Italian scholars led by Umberto Eco to create a multivolume encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. It is especially interesting that these are books by Italian researchers, and they are relatively few published in Russia.

The name of the editor-in-chief convinces me that this is a serious undertaking. Umberto Eco, alas, who left this world in 2016, is a famous writer whose novels and essays I highly recommend as excellent literature. But he is also an outstanding philologist and medievalist, a specialist in medieval aesthetics and not only. That is why his literary texts are at such a high scientific and intellectual level that it is sometimes difficult to read them. A figure of this magnitude, I hope, guarantees quality, but you still need to understand that, like all richly published encyclopedias, these are in many ways entertaining books. I recommend at least partially and in absentia. Among other things, these are great gifts.

However, encyclopedias alone for studying the history of the Middle Ages will not be enough, be sure to see what textbooks and books you need to read to understand the history of the Middle Ages and early modern times.

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