History 203

Conversion In Medieval Europe

Professor Christian Raffensperger
Doug Lehman
Wittenberg University
Spring 2016

Conversion in Medieval Europe Resources

As Christianity spread through Europe the issue of conversion became a major issue. The challenge for a researcher is that the resources, for the most part, are not in English and may be difficult to locate in a college library. There are many issues related to the process of the conversion of non-Christians to Christianity during the Medieval period.

Primary sources versus secondary sources

What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? A primary source is typically one written or recorded by a participant in the event, while a secondary source is compiled by an author from primary or secondary sources. An example of a primary source from Medieval Europe would be Church records or accounts by priests. Remember that most people in Medieval Europe were illiterate, often including rulers, but priests typically knew Latin and how to write.

Manuscripts and letters are primary sources as they were written by the person observing the event. Books may be comprised of primary sources such as copies of letters or documents relating to an event. Reports of events made by the participants would be primary sources, even though they may be printed in books.

Finding Books

EZRA– Wittenberg’s library catalog

OhioLINK – Ohio academic libraries catalog

WorldCat – used for materials not found in the above catalogs

Subject Headings: Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings - this is the online version of the print volumes

Selected Reference Books

The Encyclopedia of Religion.
REF BL 31.E46 1986

The Encyclopedia of Religion. Second edition.
REF BL 31.E46 2005

The Encyclopedia of Christianity.
REF BR 95.E8913 1999

New Catholic Encyclopedia.
REF BX 841.C25 2002

The Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe
MAIN D 102 .094 1988

Dictionary of the Middle Ages
REF D 114.D5 1987
(especially volume 8 of this set; use the index volume and look for "Missions and missionaries, Christian" and Supplement I for the article on "Conversion")

The Cambridge Medieval History
MAIN D 117 . C3
(This is the original eight volume set in the Main stacks).

The New Cambridge Medieval History
MAIN D 117 .N48 1995
(This is an updated eight volume set in the Main stacks dealing with all aspects of Medieval history)

Encyclopaedia Judaica
REF DS 102.8.E496 2007
(use the index volume and search for "Conversion")

Theses & Dissertations

In the course of your research you may encounter items described as "thesis" or "dissertation". These are the culmination of a masters or doctoral student's research. A thesis is written by a student completing a master's degree in a subject, while a dissertation is written by a student completing their doctoral studies. Many times a doctoral dissertation will ultimately be published (with certain revisions) as a book. A thesis or a dissertation is subject to a review of scholars in the field before it is accepted by the university providing the degree. These documents may prove to be good sources of information, as they often look at very specific issues or problems. Libraries (including Thomas Library) do not typically purchase copies of theses or dissertations, but they are may available through OhioLINK or Inter-Library Loan.

Proquest, a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides microfilming and distribution of theses and dissertations. Their database, Digital Dissertations, may be searched to determine if a dissertation exists and if it is available. Some recent theses and dissertations are available online through this database.

Electronic Books

The library has access to a collection of electronic books which you may encounter as part of your research. They are identified with the words [electronic resource] in the title.

Oxford Islamic studies online - Oxford Islamic studies online is an online site comprised of many of Oxford University's works dealing with Islam. Among the sources in the site are The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture, The Islamic World Past and Present, and The Oxford History of Islam.

Oxford Reference Online - Oxford Reference Online is a collection of core Oxford University Press publications (OUP is one of the most respected academic publishers in the world.). In most cases Wittenberg does not own the print edition. You can access the resource by clicking the link at the left, or go to the Library web site, clicking on Find Information, clicking on Electronic Books, scrolling down to find Oxford Reference Online. Once in the ORO website, click on the "Subject" tab. Click on "History" in the list that appears, click on the + sign beside "History" and then click on "Early History (500 CE to 1500)" and you will get a list of 4 reference book sets dealing with the medieval world. These are four places to start. There are many other ways to access the information in this site.


Thomas Library has a large collection of microforms, including microfilm and microfiche. Occasionally an article or book you need may be in a microform format. The Library has microfilm and microfiche reader/printers that you can use to print the article or relevant pages of a book. The cost is $.15 per page.

Finding journal articles

Online Indexes

ITER: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance - Index to books and articles on the Renaissance and the Middle Ages.

JSTOR – JSTOR is an electronic full-text archive of journals in various disciplines, including history.

Religion And Philosophy Collection - This EBSCO database provides access to journal articles, including many full-text articles.

ATLA Religion Index (a.k.a.Religion Index) - Produced by the American Theological Library Association, this database provides access to over 1,000,000 citations on various aspects of religion.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

When conducting research it is critical to know the difference between scholarly and popular articles. Depending on the class and the research topic faculty may not accept popular articles as a basis for your research. Be sure to talk with your professor if you have any questions about the articles you wish to use. The Library has a web page which can provide assistance to you in making the distinction between scholarly and popular articles.

Web Sites

Internet Medieval Sourcebook - Hosted at Fordham University, the IMS is part of the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.

The Middle Ages Online - Hosted by Louisiana State University, this site brings together links for a number internet databases for medieval studies. Some of the databases they link to may be subscription databases that Thomas Library does not have access to. The links may also redirect you to an LSU login.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

As a student at Wittenberg you have access to a large number of resources, but sometimes the article you want is not available here or via full-text online or the book or video you want is not available here or in Ohiolink. When that happens you need to use our inter-library loan service. By using ILL you can request a copy of an article or a book or video from another library. Most journal articles may not be requested through Ohiolink so you will need to request them on the Thomas Library periodicals ILL form. Check with a Reference Librarian to see if the article you need is available through Ohiolink. Books and videos should be requested on the Thomas Library book ILL form. Items will be delivered at the Circulation desk where you can pick them up and use them. Remember, it can take a few weeks for ILL to be delivered so plan ahead.

Audio-Visual Resources

You may also find audio-visual resources which may be of use to you. These may be videotapes, DVDs, or audio recordings. These are housed in the Circulation Department of the Library and may have special rules about their usage.

Personal Research Consultation (PeRC)

These are one hour (more or less) appointments with a librarian to discuss your topic and how to proceed with your research. You may schedule them by e-mail, phone or in-person at the reference desk. Doug Lehman is the liaison librarian for the History Department.

Return to Thomas Library Web Page

Web page by Doug Lehman, Wittenberg University
e-mail: dlehman@wittenberg.edu
phone: 327-7016
February 3, 2016