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History 305: Women & Gender in Premodern Europe: Researching Material Culture


Research in material culture is very interdisciplinary, encompassing diverse methods and perspectives from the fields of history, economics, archaeology, sociology, anthropology, and gender studies.  In addition to using the resources on the "Getting Started" tab of this guide, you'll definitely want to use some of the sources and methods on this page as well.

The following subject encyclopedias and handbooks offer expanded perspectives on various aspects of medieval material culture.

Medieval Craftsmen Series (University of Toronto Press)

Search Primo

Book Search Tips for Material Culture

  • You'll likely find that books related to your object and to material culture are shelved on all floors of Collins Library.  (This is due to how the Library of Congress subject classification system works.)  A few examples:
    • If you're researching the collar that Isabeau of Bavaria commissioned for her pet squirrel, you might find yourself up on the fourth floor in the section beginning with the call letters SF, which is devoted to animal-human relationships.
      human-animal relationships-- Europe -- History -- to 1500
    • If you're exploring the design and production of a particular type and style of gold or silver jewelry, you may find relevant books on the third floor, in the section beginning with the call letters NK7300, which is devoted to the history of jewelry made of precious metals.
      Goldwork, Medieval OR Silverwork, Medieval
  • It's often a good idea to "zoom out" a few levels rather than search for books on your narrower topic. (Of course, there are exceptions for some objects which are so well-known and studied that they have entire books devoted to them.)  To do this, it helps to know what some of the most common LC subject headings are for aspects of material culture.  Here are some examples:
  • When in doubt, you always can use the relatively new Library of Congress Subject Heading "material culture," followed by geographic location and time period.  For example: