Much of our past is contained in documents few of us can read, let alone understand and interpret. The National Archives have created a set of online tutorials in beginner’s and advanced medieval Latin and palaeography, or, how to read old handwriting. It is the first time a course like this has been offered, free and online. It will be interesting to see who will take on the twelve-lesson challenges. It claims it does not require prior knowledge of classical Latin (usually what we were taught – those of us that were – at school) and is suitable for beginners or those who want to refresh their skills.
Can an online experience be more satisfying than learning in a classroom of people where you hesitate with your ablatives and datives? Will anyone come out of these courses able to have a good stab at old documents in an archive and to debate hotly with another how many minims a word contains? Will these courses be able to convey the importance of grammatic jargon that goes with learning Latin, and still inspire through the gems contained in documents such as Domesday book?
Although I am reading many documents in medieval Latin at the moment, I am going to take the online medieval Latin challenge and report back with a comparison with my book-based and classroom experience.