One of the best ways to understand past societies is to decipher and scrutinize the documentary evidence they produced. This course offers keys to penetrate Medieval Europe by teaching the tools experts use to decode handwritten medieval manuscripts. These texts were typically written in abbreviated, short-hand Latin. The documents selected for the course date from the early thirteenth to the Black Death in England and France. They include the Magna Carta and the mock trial of the Knights Templars, but also a vast array of unedited sources made available for the first time to non-specialists. These sources reveal a great deal about the civilization that gave birth to Western Europe. They allow a look into the daily life of medieval men, women and children, from feudal lords who traded peasants like cattle, to the last moments of a middle-class wife dying from childbirth complications, the fate of a plague victim's children, a runaway teenager, a law suit against child abuse, etc. Through hands-on involvement you will be guided by the instructor into the decrypting of the still little-known historical record of our ancestors, and you will never look at the Middle Ages the same way again.