Dr. Nicholas Paul, author of Go Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages and winner of the 2016 Medieval Academy for America’s John Nicholas Brown Book Prize, is currently studying the crusading frontier in the Eastern Mediterranean. His work focuses on how the frontier served as a stage for the European aristocracy to engage in holy wars, perform acts of chivalry, and return home in order to display their newfound military skill.
Dr. Paul’s project is largely inspired by his discovery of a previously unreported manuscript, found after ten years of research in a seminary library in Namur, Belgium. The text details the life of a knight, the ten years he spent on the frontier, and his return to Europe. It ultimately reveals essential information about the Medieval period and the crusading frontier. Dr. Paul describes the discovery as “very gratifying.”
“Some things that the text tells us about is what it was like for someone to go out and be received in the court of the king and queen of Jerusalem, and it tells you a lot about when he came home,” Dr. Paul said. “What this is really evidence of is people’s impressions of what you could do [on the frontier] and what life could be like going out there.”
By translating the text with the help of Professor Wolfgang P. Mueller, Dr. Paul hopes to bring more attention to the script as well as incorporate it into undergraduate courses on the crusades.
When asked about the one thing he had learned about the research process through years of searching for and finding new information, Dr. Paul’s answer was simple: persistence.
“It’s really important to talk about the importance of research, because you realize there’s still a lot out there that’s yet to be discovered,” Dr. Paul said. “You could not find this by using the internet, or from the books in our library, or books in any library in the United States. It requires a lot of hunting and thinking and detective work, which is what history is all about.”