The present selection of short Old and Middle English texts is designed a reader for the instruction of English historical grammar at university level. The texts included are also meant to be a source of information about the social history of the language not only because they describe momentous events but also because they bear witness of their authors personalities (Alfred, Aelfric, Bede).
The dialects represented are basically those that later fed the national standard variety.
The choice of literary samples was also prompted by the desire to present a comparatively full picture of the existing genres in the Old and Middle English periods - chronicles, sermons, homilies, religious poems, romances, fables, traveller's notes etc.
The texts are accompanied by suggested topics for comment. The questions deal with problems from all linguistic levels - phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical. They do not exhaust the possible aspects of analysing the particular excerpt. In their individual work students are advised to try and answer questions similar to those asked to all other texts. The sum total of all questions is supposed to cover the most important changes in the history of English fairly completely.