Prosopography and Database Design for the Medieval Londoners Project

This paper outlines the chief aims of the Medieval Londoners Database (MLD) project, which is designed to bring together information in online, printed, and archival sources about those living in London between c. 1100 and c. 1520 for scholars, students, and the general public. My first aim was pedagogical in that I wanted to integrate a digital project into my undergraduate interdisciplinary course on Medieval London and find a way to involve grad students in a collaborative digital project. I was also drawn to database analysis, which I have used and taught for decades. But, since I had only worked with mainframe and desktop databases, and since online database work usually relies on complicated platforms that require paying experts to code, the second aim of the project became to find an inexpensive and relatively easy-to-use platform to create a searchable online database.  This aim was made possible with the help of Katherina Fostano (MLIS), a Digital Resources Coordinator at Fordham, who has also inserted a Linked Open Data element into the database. The third aim of the project was to design a prosopographical database to create a fairly simple digital resource that would be helpful for a wide range of users. The rest of this talk focuses on the advantages of the prosopographical approach to understanding social groups of the premodern past, how the design of the database reflects its prosopographical functions, and how and why the MLD differs from the more well-known ‘factoid-based’ prosopographical databases that have been set up as part of several well-funded UK digital projects.