Narrative Sources aims to offer an exhaustive and critical survey of all the narrative sources originating from the medieval Low Countries. The database is intended to inventory all texts which describe the past in a narrative way: annals, chronicles, letters, diaries, poems, saint's lives, genealogies etc. Narrative Sources covers present day Belgium and the Netherlands as well as those areas which belonged historically to the Low Countries but are part now of France (French Flanders, French Hainault) or Germany (East Frisia, the northern Rhineland). The texts inventoried in Narrative Sources date from the sixth to the first half of the sixteenth century.
For each source, the following information categories are offered: identification number, type, language, author, biographical information on the author, title, incipit, explicit, size, century, region, redaction, abstract, context, manuscripts, editions, translations, sources, influence, literature, desiderata, name of the contributor and update code. Moreover, in accordance with the renewed attention in medieval studies for manuscripts and their composition, Narrative Sources offers the possibility to reconstruct the manuscript context in which separate texts, considered as narrative sources, have been transmitted. It should be noted, however, that at this stage of the project, the manuscript information is still very incomplete. The information in Narrative Sources was originally entered in Dutch. However, the database can now also be consulted in English.
The previous history of Narrative Sources dates back to the early 1980s, when R. C. Van Caenegem and E. Van Mingroot amongst others started to argue for the usefulness of a typological survey of the narrative source materials from the Southern Low Countries. The actual database Narrative Sources is the result of some subsequent research projects at the departments of medieval history at Ghent University and at the University of Leuven. The first result of these projects consisted of a so-called 'preprint 1', entitled De verhalende bronnen uit de Zuidelijke Nederlanden (600-1500), of which a very limited number of copies was distributed in 1995. Then from 1996 onwards, the database The Narrative Sources of Southern Low Countries, 600-1500. Version 2.0, operating with SilverPlatter-software, was published on the Internet. It was updated yearly (versions 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4) until, in 2002, and thanks to a new project at the University of Groningen, it was transformed into a database covering the medieval Northern Netherlands as well. This new tool, The Narrative Sources of the Medieval Low Countries. Version 3.0, was still updated three more times (versions 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3). For the current Narrative Sources, launched in November 2009 and published by the Belgian Royal Historical Commission, a completely new relational database software has been designed. This new, user-friendly software allows for a continuous adaptation of the information. The necessary funding for this updating is currently granted by the Flemish Hercules Foundation.
An inventory of this type is never finished. Therefore, Narrative Sources is published on the Internet as a continuous work-in-progress: at any moment, new data can be added and the existing data adapted and corrected and thus kept up-to-date. At this stage, Narrative Sources contains approximately 2200 records. Also the users of this database are warmly welcomed to submit new records that will be integrated, after acceptance by the Advisory Board, in the database.