Five Maps to Explore Medieval Britain

These five interactive maps offer us a lot of ways to look back on Britain during the Middle Ages.

Historians increasingly make use of impressive digital tools to help us understand the medieval past. These five projects have created interactive maps, sometimes making use of the medieval maps themselves or combining them with historic sources, which offer us great ways of exploring various places on the island of Great Britain.


The Gough Map of Great Britain

The Gough Map is one the most important medieval maps of Great Britain. Believed to have been created around the 1360s and now held at the Bodleian Library, it is the first very detailed view of the island, with over 600 placenames listed. The digital project allows users to go deep into a high-quality scan of the map, where you can look for medieval or modern places, or superimpose rivers, coastlines, forests and other natural features.

The Open Domesday Map

Compiled in 1086, the Domesday Book is a detailed survey of most of England and parts of Wales made for King William I. It shows the various land holdings in this area, which is a huge benefit to historians focusing on economic and social conditions in medieval England. The Open Domesday Project created an interactive map that allows users to search through the records.


Matthew Paris’s Clickable Map

Matthew Paris, one of the most famous English chroniclers, also created several maps within his works. This includes one of Great Britain that dates to about 1250, and can be found in British Library Cotton MS Claudius D VI. The Clickable version allows users to see the annotations, including translations, of the details Matthew wrote into his map.

Map Images from the National Library of Scotland

This impressive site offers viewers a wide range of maps related to Britain, some going back to the 16th century. In particular, check out the Georeferenced Maps interface, which allows you to view a set or series of historical maps seamed together, in one continuous layer. You can use this to get a huge amount of details revealed by maps, especially the Ordinance Survey maps from the late 19th century – they reveal place names, the layout of towns and villages and various natural features. From the main website, click on ‘Explore Georefenced Maps’.

The Map of Early Modern London

The Agas Map was first printed in 1561, and shows the buildings and streets of London. The project allows users to explore the map and combine it with other historic sources to see what kind of places existed in the city – churches, bars, markets, even bookshops – that existed in the 16th century.

See also: New Digital Resource: Mapping Eastern Europe