This semester I am taking a course on the Crusading Movement. It is an absolutely fascinating topic, and the professor has really made the past come alive and has provided us with some great texts to read. The big part of the class is that we are working on a short book about the crusades. For that work, we each are writing on a different topic which will serve as one of the articles in the publication.
Our class has some great topics, from looking at the Crusades through a historiographical lens to the role of Hungarians in the crusades, we are covering topics outside of the battlefield. I am working on an economic history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The hard part about researching for papers in European History is that the sources are not all in English. In order to research the primary sources in Europe, you need to know the language. While I have taken German since high school, mein Deutsch ist nicht super. So I have found the struggle to be finding sources written in English. Fortunately, there are significant sources in English for my topic, but that is not the case for everyone. I give serious props to those who are linguists/historians because of the vast amount work it takes to get to that point.
Though it is nice to have sources translated into English, there is something to be said about getting absorbed into the people’s past by knowing the words they used and what the historical connotations of specific words/phrases were. It is something exciting, and something that I really enjoy hearing about from those who specialize in this area.
So as I go through researching for my paper, I have to remember that I do not have the full story of each source, because there is both a time barrier and a language barrier. That being said, I am an undergraduate, and fortunate enough to have a professor who is actively guiding us and pointing us to where scholarship has moved and giving us the best information he can to help us on our quest to interpret the events of the past. It is exciting!