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History 230: The Roots of English Society & Politics: Life of an Object: Getting Started

This course guide is intended for students enrolled in Prof. Katherine Allen Smith's course. It provides links to relevant resources and suggests assignment-specific research strategies.

Recommended Objects

Before our special session on Tuesday, October 6th, please choose one of the objects from the lists below, obtain the largest available image of it, and upload this image to a place where you can access it from the lab computers in Library 018.

These objects come from the virtual collections of major museums.  Some sites allow you to simply download an image.  Two exceptions, the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum, make you go through a short registration process before you can use their images.

  • If you choose an object from the British Museum, click on ‘use digital image,’ then register for the free image delivery service. Once you’ve registered, log in, accept the terms and conditions of use, then you will receive your image as an email attachment within two working days.
  • If you chose an object from the Victoria & Albert Museum, click on ‘Download Image,’ then click on ‘Downloads’ (in upper right of screen). You’ll be prompted to register for the free image download service. Once you’ve registered, log in, then click ‘start download process,’ accept the terms and conditions of use (for type of use, select ‘student thesis’), then click ‘download.’ The site will now display a message that your image is now ‘pending;’ reload the page in about 15 minutes and you should be able to download the image.

Roman Britain

Pottery oil-lamp with gladiators, 1st century

Cavalry sports helmet from the Ribchester hoard, late 1st or early 2nd century

Wooden Writing Tablet, 1st or 2nd century

Child’s Shoe, 1st or 2nd century

Coin of Hadrian with ‘Britannia’ Figure, 2nd century

Bronze pan made by Boduogenus, 2nd century

Bronze figurine of a North African cavalryman, 2nd or 3rd century

Felmingham Hall Hoard, 2nd or 3rd century

Altar from Roman fort at Maryport, 2nd or 3rd century

Tombstone of Volusia Faustina, 3rd century

Silver platter from the Mildenhall Hoard, 4th century

Anglo-Saxon and Viking England

Glass Beaker, 5th or 6th century

Disk-on-bow brooch, 6th century

Drinking horn, 6th century

Purse from Sutton Hoo, 7th century

Helmet from Sutton Hoo, 7th century

Desborough Necklace, 7th century

Gold mancus coin of Coenwulth of Mercia, 8th or 9th century

Seax of Beagnoth with runes, 9th or 10th century

Æthelswith Ring, 9th century

Silver ‘London’ penny of Alfred the Great, 9th century

Viking comb case, 10th or 11th century

Pitney Brooch, 11th century

Medieval England, 1066-1350

Reliquary pendant of Margaret of Sicily, 12th century

The Gloucester Candlestick, 12th century

Ceremonial staff made of narwhal tusk, 12th century

Chertsey Tiles showing Richard I and Saladin, 13th century

Seal-die of Robert Fitzwalter, 13th century

Ivory chess piece in the shape of a knight and dragon, 13th century

Bronze aquamanile (pitcher for hand-washing during meals), 13th century

Silver and wolf’s tooth ring, 13th or 14th century

Bronze bell from a parish church, 13th or 14th century

Gold ‘noble’ coin of Edward III, 14th century

Embroidery Panel, 14th century

Pilgrim Badge of St Albans, 14th or 15th century


Recommended Subject Encyclopedias

Start your research with these subject encyclopedias, then branch out as needed. 

Art and Architecture Reference

Although the focus of this assignment is not on art history, you may find that these resources provide at least some of the information you'll need to interpret your object.

Oxford Art Online
This massive reference resource includes the full text of the 34-volume Dictionary of Art.  [Note:  There is a limit of three simultaneous users.]

Oxford Reference Art & Architecture

Includes these sources for an overview of art related topics.




Associate Director for Public Services

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Peggy Burge
Collins Library 119

Using Subject Encyclopedias

It's likely that you'll need to think expansively and creatively as you research your chosen object.  The following questions will help guide you as you do research:

Who created the object?

When was it created?

How was it created?

Where was it found?

Who would have made use of it?  Who wouldn't have made use of it?