James Wilson did his PhD at the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London, UK. After his doctorate, he had a short-term (6 months) research scholarship at the Trier Kolleg für Mittelalter and Neuzeit at the University of Trier, before coming to the Zukunftskolleg.
His research project at the Zukunftskolleg – which is entitled “Colonialism, the "Counter-Crusade" and the early development of Crusader studies” – examines the extent to which colonial attitudes influenced the edition and translations of several key medieval Arabic chronicles relating to the Crusades. These French translations, which were mostly published in the nineteenth century, are still heavily relied upon today by many Crusade historians.
“The project aims to evaluate the editors’ linguistic decisions by comparing these editions and translations with the original Arabic manuscripts, seeking thereby to better understand the approaches underpinning their compilation”, explains James. “It will then review how this editorial process has impacted modern scholarship, written by historians who have long depended upon these materials. There are two main research questions. Firstly, whether these editors did take a colonialist approach to the editing and translation of these sources (and if so how exactly this approach impacts upon the texts in question). Secondly, if evidence of colonialist attitudes can be identified in the editions and translations, then how has this influenced everything written by scholars relying on these texts in later years?”
In focusing on the means by which Arabic sources – interpreted through a nineteenth century lens – were integrated into the academic study of the Crusades, this project not only aims to provide nuanced insight into the field, it explores the latent challenges which anachronous editorial practices present to those engaging with difficult texts from the medieval past.
Additionally, James currently is also writing a book with the title 'Medieval Syria and the Onset of the Crusades' (which will be published with Edinburgh University Press).
We wish him a good start and all the best for his time at the Zukunftskolleg!