The English Monastic Archives tripartite Database comprises a systematic guide to one of the largest and most important sets of documents anywhere in the pre-modern world. It enables scholars to conduct many different sorts of searches and should inaugurate a renaissance of research on English monasteries and the many other related topics in social, economic, cultural and religious history. The database is designed to be a research tool: it is a guide to the types and current locations of documents generated by medieval English monasteries, but not, as a rule, to the information contained within those documents. The project was made possible primarily by two very substantial grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB, now the AHRC), supplemented by indispensable grants from UCL, and the British Academy. A grant from the Marc Fitch Fund led to a considerable improvement of the ‘Religious Houses’ and ‘Properties’ databases.
The idea behind the project was conceived by Dr. Nigel Ramsay and fostered by a group of senior medieval historians, above all Prof. Barrie Dobson FBA. Prof. David d’Avray of the UCL History Department undertook to be the lead applicant for funding and to direct the project. Dr Maureen Jurkowski was chosen to be the principal researcher together with Dr. Ramsay. The AHRB agreed to fund a one-year pilot scheme, and, after a short intermission, it then made a much larger grant to bring what was essentially the same project to completion. Dr. Kate Peters of the School of Libraries, Archives and Information Studies at UCL, and Prof. Derek Keene, of the Centre for Metropolitan History at the Institute of Historical Research, were co-applicants with Prof. d’Avray.
The first achievement of Drs. Jurkowski and Ramsay was to create the database linking monastic houses with the manors, churches, chapels and urban property that they owned. This was initially intended as a working tool to enable the researchers to link documents relating to manors, etc., with the religious house that had generated them, whose name might well figure nowhere in the document. It rapidly became apparent however that this data would be an invaluable resource for research more generally, not just a tool for the second stage of the project.
The second stage was to build up a database recording the documents generated by English monastic houses, structuring the data by genre and the other categories described in the ‘How to Search’ section of this website. The software chosen was ‘Filemaker Pro’. Adapting the software to the needs of this project was largely the work of Simon Renton of the UCL History Department.
The achievement of Dr. Jurkowski and Dr. Ramsay in working through the massive volume of relevant material in The National Archives, British Library, the university libraries, and the county record offices and other repositories, both in the U.K. and abroad, cannot be emphasized too strongly. Behind this front line work there was a strong team, whose efforts must also be acknowledged. While Simon Renton dealt with all database and computer problems, the financial administration of the project was largely in the hands of Mrs. Helen Matthews, Administrator of the UCL History Department, whose contribution extended far beyond responsibility for the accounts. Her counsel was crucial in the regular meetings at which decisions about the project were taken. Elizabeth Danbury of the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies also attended the policy meetings and provided vital support in many phases of the project.
The data inputting was the work of UCL students, and former students, working part time: Marian Hodgkin, Lucy Wright, Dr. Sally Dixon-Smith, Dr. Catherine Rider, and Kathleen Walker-Meikle and especially Ann Hignall. The inputters also attended meetings during their stints and helped to shape decisions. Near the end of phase two, the team was joined by an intern from Bryn Mawr College in the U.S., Elizabeth Mobley, who helped especially with the completion of the ‘Properties’ database. The web interface has been the work of Donna Haugh.”