The DEEDS (Documents of Early England Data Set) Project currently consists of over 10 000 digitised dated charters. While the aim of the database is to provide a means, via the application of statistical algorithms, for dating undated charters, there are other avenues of exploration available. The application of meta-data to the charters of the database encodes information on people and places appearing in the documents. A detailed demarcation of the diplomatic parts in each charter is also underway. The combined full resources of the DEEDS Project make available a wealth of information on private charters of medieval England. My dissertation looks at how diplomatic materials reflect administrative trends in late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Somerset. Currently deposited at the Somerset Record Office are a number of loose charters, many with original seals. A close study of those from the reigns of Richard I and John (1189-1216) takes advantage of the resources made available by the DEEDS Project to analyse local administrative instruments, which can then be compared with those of other levels of government. By applying DEEDS algorithms for the dating of undated charters, by comparing the diplomatics of the Somerset charters with more general trends visible in the DEEDS database, and by making use of data on individuals and locations, the practical applications of the DEEDS database deepen our understanding of the temporal, diplomatic, and historical context of the Somerset charters. As these charters are not included in the DEEDS database, the fundamental question to be addressed here concerns the applications of digitised materials to the study of non-digitised documents. What can digital data on medieval charters tell us about the wealth of material that remains in analogue form? And what information does the analogue, physical charter yet hold that is not reflected in digitised form?
Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto