Medieval Family Life

The Paston, Cely, Plumpton, Stonor and Armburgh Papers

Only five major letter collections exist from fifteenth century England and they are all available online for the first time in this digital resource.

The Paston Family Papers have long been a subject of both literary and historical interest. They are Britain’s first surviving records of private correspondence, describing everyday life in East Anglia during the Wars of the Roses.

In addition, we include four other valuable collections relating to medieval families in Essex, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and Warwickshire, c1400-1490.

This resource contains full colour images of the original medieval manuscripts that comprise these family letter collections along with full text searchable transcripts from the printed editions.

As sources for historical explication and exploration, it is hard to do better than to turn to these collections of family letters.
Professor Joel T Rosenthal, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 1400-1490


  • Only five major family letter collections from this period survive and all are included here; Paston Family Papers, Cely Family Papers, Plumpton Correspondence, Stonor Correspondence and Amburgh Family Papers
  • Original images are directly linked to full-text transcriptions of all the manuscript material
  • Double-keyed secondary sources help to contextualise the material
  • Visual content illustrates everyday life in the medieval period

Source Archives

  • The British Library, London
  • Chetham's Library, Manchester
  • The National Archives, UK
  • West Yorkshire Archives

Material Types

  • The Paston letters have long been a subject of both literary and historical interest and are the largest of the collections and the best known of the five families. Their letters document the life of a gentry family during the War of the Roses. Hundreds of documents and letters exchanged between different family members cover in microcosm the dilemmas of a nation beset by war, disease and legal disputes.
  • The Celys were a merchant family, and crucial players in the wool trade between England and the Channel ports. This collection, which covers every aspect of their commercial dealings, will fascinate the economic and social historian.
  • The Stonors were a well-established gentry family in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. These documents cover the longest time period of any of the collections and throw light on both business and domestic issues.
  • The Plumptons were a dominant northern family. Their documents, which continue right through to the early sixteenth century, reveal a family entangled in the social and economic affairs of the region.
  • The Armburgh family material is primarily concerned with a dispute over a family inheritance.

Editorial Board

  • Joel T Rosenthal, State University of New York at Stony Brook, New York
  • Anne DeWindt, University of Detroit, Mercy
  • Jeremy Goldberg, University of York
  • Rachel Gibbons, University of Bristol


  • Family Inheritance
  • Personal Relationships
  • Family Business
  • Local Communities

Key Features

  • Chronology
  • Visual gallery
  • Interactive map
  • Glossary
  • Family trees 


MFL contains a treasure trove of significant primary source material that will inform the scholarship of all medieval researchers.

Content Medieval Family Life (MFL) is a collection of manuscripts from the fifteenth century. The collection, created from source material from the British Library, Chetham's Library, the National Archives, ......

Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers.

This database brings together letters and documents from the four major 15th-century English family collections, along with a range of complementary resources. The families included represent different social groups, ......