Cloth and clothing have been integral to life for every person since civilization began.
In the Middle Ages dress was an identifier of occupation, status, gender and ethnicity: textiles ranged through opulent, symbolic, utilitarian and recycled. Cloth production and international trade constituted a major sector of the economy of medieval Britain.
However, evidence for medieval textiles and clothing must currently be sought in diverse academic disciplines: archaeology, archaeological textiles, art history, economic history, literature, languages.
The vocabulary of the various languages spoken and written in the British Isles is documented in different specialist dictionaries, yet geographical proximity and interaction through labour and trade would argue that this evidence should be categorised and analysed together.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council has made an award of £765,576 within the Research Grants (Standard) Scheme to fund a 5 year Project to undertake a trans¬disciplinary study with the purpose of producing an analytical corpus of medieval dress and textiles terminology of the British Isles in the form of a searchable database, innovatively illustrated.
At its centre is the assembly and examination of textiles/clothing lexis in the early languages of Britain (Old and Middle English; Welsh, Old Irish and minor Celtic languages; Anglo-Norman/French, Medieval Latin, Anglo-Norse), investigating the genesis and subsequent development of the vocabulary.
The terms and their citations from both documentary and literary texts will be analysed in awareness of surviving textiles/dress accessories and graphic images in medieval art.
The Project will investigate the complex relationships between vocabulary, artefact and image. Also included in the database will be definitions in modern English of medieval technical processes and artefacts; and 'thumbnail sketches' of significant surviving artefacts.