Sources of Medieval History

  • To learn about the medieval period, we can use different types of sources that tell us about the past.
  • The sources of medieval history are divided into two types: archaeological sources and literary sources .

Archaeological Sources

  • Archaeological sources are the things that were made or used by the people in the past and have survived till today.
  • Some examples of archaeological sources are:
    • Temples , palaces , mosques , forts , tombs : They tell us about the architecture, art, religion and politics of the period.
    • Coins , inscriptions , utensils , tools : They tell us about the economy, trade, administration and society of the period.
    • Paintings and ornaments : They tell us about the customs, food habits, dress and jewellery of the period.

  • Coins are very important for the study of the medieval period. They give us the dates of the important political events. A book on coins titled Drarya-Pariksha (An Examination of Coins) was written during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khalji . It lists the coins minted during the reign of the sultan.

  • Inscriptions from South India record proclamations by kings and gifts to temples and learned men. Some of these inscriptions are recorded on copper plates and some are inscribed on temple walls .

  • Manuscripts were collected by wealthy people, rulers, monasteries and temples. They were placed in libraries and archives. These manuscripts and documents provide a lot of detailed information to historians but they are also difficult to use.

Literary Sources

  • Literary sources are the written records of the medieval period that tell us about the history, culture, society and religion of the period.

  • Some examples of literary sources are:
    • Chronicles of court historians: They tell us about the life and achievements of the rulers and their courts. For example, Tarikh-i-Firozshahi by Ziauddin Barani is a chronicle of the Delhi Sultanate.

    • Biographies , autobiographies , farmans and correspondence (letters) of the kings: They tell us about the personal views, opinions, experiences and orders of the rulers. For example, Baburnama by Babur is an autobiography of the Mughal emperor.

    • Other court records such as those regarding justice and taxes: They tell us about the administration, law and revenue system of the period. For example, Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl is a record of the administration of Akbar’s empire.

    • Travelogues : They tell us about the observations and impressions of the foreign travellers who visited India during this period. For example, Rihla by Ibn Battuta is a travelogue of a Moroccan traveller who travelled across India in the 14th century.
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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.