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I’m writing a fantasy novel that, though not strictly set in medieval times, certainly draws quite a bit of customs, vocabulary, etc., from medieval times, specifically medieval England.

Up until now, I’ve been searching “what did…in medieval times” on Google, but sometimes the results are too few (or there just flat out aren’t any) to be helpful.

Which brings me to the question: does anyone know of a good resource(s) for medieval things? This may seem too generalized, but that’s just what I’m looking for: a generalized source that will get me started with questions that I’ll actually find answers to.

I’m primarily thinking a book, article, or something of the like. Of course, if there’s something more versatile, such as a full website akin to Wikipedia (but just medieval topics), that’d be helpful as well.

Thanks!

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  • Where? Great Britain? France? Italy? Germany? Because there was a lot of variation even inside those regions.
    – Mary
    Nov 24, 2021 at 5:00
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    England, mostly. I’ll edit my question.
    – Lea
    Nov 24, 2021 at 13:17
  • How to write in archaic English is covered by a number of existing questions. See Resource on archaic English and what it links to.
    – Laurel
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:08
  • I’m not looking for how to write in archaic English. I’m looking for resource that gives me medieval customs and medieval alternatives to modern words. Primarily the first one, though.
    – Lea
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:14
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    Beware of falling down worldbuilding rabbit holes for the sake of arbitrary 'flavor text' – especially If your story is not set in any historic time or place. Fantasy≠History. Design your fantasy world around the story. Create the customs and beliefs that illustrate your themes and antagonisms. Create a protagonist who's experience shows us how to feel about the world…. If you really want fourteenth century realism medieval text exists with actual vocabulary in it: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for instance.
    – wetcircuit
    Nov 24, 2021 at 14:24

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For words, I often go by the etymology; how the word was derived. There are many online dictionaries; here is one example, for the word "linen": Linen.

A good dictionary has dates of various derivations; Linen is 14c, so safe to use.

The main reason I use the etymology is to ensure a word is usable at all; I don't want an anachronistic word in my description or dialogue. Often when it is NOT usable, the derivation back to the middle ages provides a clue of what to use instead.

Sometimes it is surprising; "gunpowder" was coined in the early 15c (1400s).

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