Professor Sharpe's interests are broadly the history of medieval England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. He has a special concern with first-hand work on the primary sources of medieval history, including palaeography, diplomatic, and the editorial process, which is the core of his teaching in Oxford.
In the context of medieval archives and documents, this finds expression in research on charters of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the context of books and libraries his long-term research project on medieval library catalogues has opened up a mass of information on what works were available to read in medieval England, at what periods and in what settings. He takes a view of medieval bibliography that combines the textual and material aspects of books, and in his Handlist of the Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540 the biographical and antiquarian dimensions are not forgotten. It was interest in what could be added to our knowledge and understanding of medieval sources from the work done by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century antiquaries that led him to investigate antiquarian correspondence, particularly that of Edward Lhwyd, which has opened up some fruitful lines of research. Charters and letters have much in common, medieval manuscripts and early printed books are inseparable parts of the history of the works read down the centuries, and all of these uses of writing serve as a means to enhance modern understanding of the distant and not-so-distant past. Books or documents in their material reality communicate with modern students on several levels, all worth our understanding.
I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding anything related to my broad range of research interests
I currently teach:
Introductory courses for masters candidates studying within the area of the Latin West in the middle ages, providing instruction in palaeography and diplomatic, and practice in reading documents from medieval england.
Advanced courses in English Royal Diplomatic and in Books and Libraries in the Middle Ages.
Podcast: Magna Carta in the Bodleian. A talk given during the exhibition of four engrossments of Magna Carta in the Divinity School on 11 December 2007. Richard Sharpe explains that the seventeen surviving original manuscripts of the Magna Carta are engrossments, not copies: official documents from Royal Chancery bearing the ruler's seal. Prof. Sharpe also reveals why so many examples of the Magna Carta survive.