"Let Us See What Is Meant by the Word Recorde"

Concepts of Record from the Middle Ages to the Early 20th Century

  • Geoffrey Yeo


Taking as its starting point the discussion of “what is meant by the word Recorde” in a 1581 work by William Lambard, this article considers the development of conceptual ideas about records from the Middle Ages to the early years of the 20th century. After examining the medieval understanding of record as oral testimony of legal judgments, it discusses how concepts of record in England gradually expanded to embrace written texts, and it traces the shift from an exclusive association with courts of law to a perception that records could be made, kept, and used across a much wider range of contexts. The article also examines the changing terminological relationships between records and archives and the dissemination of English understandings of records to other Anglophone countries. It concludes with a brief exploration of points of contact between older debates about the scope of the term record and those of present- day professional discourse.

Author Biography

Geoffrey Yeo

Geoffrey Yeo is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University College London, UK, and a member of the editorial board of Archivaria. With more than 40 years’ experience as an archival practitioner, consultant, and educator, he is the author of numerous books, book chapters, and articles on many aspects of archives and records management. In his article in this issue, Yeo refers to the pioneering cataloguing project instigated in England in 1323 by the royal Treasurer, Bishop Walter de Stapeldon, and he is pleased to acknowledge a personal connection: as an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1970s, he was a beneficiary of Bishop Stapeldon’s generosity when he was the fortunate holder of a Stapeldon scholarship. Although now retired from professional practice, he continues to be active as a researcher and writer and as a speaker at conferences on archival topics.

How to Cite
Yeo, Geoffrey. 2022. “"Let Us See What Is Meant by the Word Recorde": Concepts of Record from the Middle Ages to the Early 20th Century”. Archivaria 93 (May), 6-41. https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13833.