What is MEMDB?

The Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank was established at Rutgers University in 1985 under the joint directorship and editorship of Rudolph M. Bell and Martha C. Howell. It was cosponsored by the Research Libraries Group (RLG), Inc. as a pioneering endeavor in what has come to be known among historians as “Big Data”, a sub-field or analytic approach still in its infancy several decades later. MEMDB provides scholars with a library of information in electronic format on the medieval and early modern periods of European history, circa 800-1815 C.E.

MEMDB contains six large data sets, three pertaining to currency exchanges, two to prices, and one to textile production, wages, and prices:

Contains monetary data from Rainer Metz, Geld, Währung und Preisentwicklung: der Niederrheinraum im europäischen Vergleich, 1350-1800 (Frankfurt am Main, 1990).
Contains monetary data supporting material presented in Reinhold C. Mueller, The Venetian Money Market: Banks, Panics, and the Public Debt, 1200-1500 (Baltimore, 1997).
Contains all currency exchange quotations compiled by Peter Spufford and published in his Handbook of Medieval Exchange (London, 1986).
Contains grain prices supplied by Rainer Metz and compiled for the printed edition of Dietrich Ebeling and Franz Irsigler, Getreideumsatz, Getreide- und Brotpreise in Köln, 1368-1797 (Köln, 1976).
Contains prices drawn from primary sources and published in Nicholaas Wilhelmus Posthumus, Nederlandsche Prijsgeschiedenis (Leiden, 1943).
Contains annual data on textile-related trade, textile production, textile prices, price indices, and wages in the medieval Low Countries and England extracted from the annual civic treasurers' accounts that have been placed in the Rekenkamer or Chambre des Comptes in the Belgian National Archive and in the town archives of Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, and Mechelen; from the National Archives (Public Record Office) and from the Archives of the British Library of Political and Economic Science.

How was MEMDB developed?

In addition to codirectors Prof. Rudolph M. Bell of Rutgers University and Prof. Martha C. Howell of Columbia University, MEMDB established mini-centers at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands with Prof. Willem P. Blockmans; at the University of Leuven, Belgium, with Prof. Eddy van Cauwenberghe; and at the University of Cologne with Dr. Rainer Metz. Its advisory board included these individuals along with J. H. A. Munro (University of Toronto), Edward Peters (University of Pennsylvania) and Peter Spufford (University of Cambridge).

Web Interface for MEMDB

Originally, MEMDB was available on CD-ROM from the NISC corporation. In the early 1990s it migrated to the current online version, which was produced by Dr. Ronald Jantz under the auspices of the Scholarly Communication Center at the Rutgers University Library.

Currently MEMDB is hosted by the Rutgers University Library on its Drupal server. It is accessible without restriction to the academic community and to the general public for research and educational purposes.

Who supplied MEMDB's data?

MEMDB's holdings came from databases donated by scholars. The Bank functions as an efficient means of publication for valuable work that is clumsy to publish in microform and expensive to publish in print. The databases preserve all their original documentation. Background texts and source references are displayed on-screen using links to pertinent data items.

How to cite MEMDB?

Copyright to the Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank (MEMDB) is held by The Research Libraries Group, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. (C) 1996 The Research Libraries Group, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The retrieval software, database format, indexes, and arrangement of data are the property of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and may not be duplicated by any means. This website and any of the contents herein may not be used as part of any other website, online database, or commercial product.

Individuals may freely use, replicate, and rearrange the data itself for non-commercial scholarly research and teaching purposes. All we ask is the usual scholarly citation, both of the website itself -- as, for example, recommended in Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources, Andrew Harnack and Eugene Kleppinger (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997) -- and of the original data set donors. For instance:

Peter Spufford, "Currency Exchanges from Handbook of Medieval Currency Exchange" (London, 1987), in Rudolph M. Bell and Martha C. Howell, eds., "The Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank," Oct. 19, 1998, http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/memdb (Nov. 15, 1998)

(The elements of the citation, in order, are: (1) donor name, (2) donor title of publication, (3) editors of website, (4) title of website, (5) date website was last revised, (6) URL, (7) date user accessed website.)

A Note on Query Strategies

For the Munro database, choose any database from the list provided.

For all other databases, begin by using “Choose from List” for a single field. See the results of this single-field search to enter more inclusive terms (e.g. “sugar” rather than specific sub-types of “sugar” in the Posthumus database) and/or to choose additional field entries. This will assure positive, meaningful results.

The five databases other than Munro allow users to enter search terms not specifically shown in the “Choose from List” files, such as the “sugar” example above, or by entering a range of years for a currency exchange string in the Spufford database. The “Examples” links adjacent to each query field provide searching tips for custom entries. Users should be aware that various search engines may treat queries differently from what was intended in the original programming developed in the 1990s. To assure intended results, always search widely and narrow queries only after reviewing initial results (not unlike how experienced readers use a well-constructed index to efficiently and thoroughly locate information in a printed book).